When to stop ABA therapy?
This blog post will talk about ABA therapy and when should you stop going to ABA therapy.
What is ABA therapy?
Applied behaviour analysis or ABA is a psychological therapy that teaches children with autism spectrum disorders the required skills and behaviour through reinforcement. It’s a very popular treatment method and is one of the oldest methods.
A lot of people are supportive of using this therapy because according to them it helps individuals with autism spectrum disorders learn proper behaviour and skills. At the same time, many people oppose it because they believe that it forces the child to behave “normally” and harms them.
Therapists use rewards to replace undesired behaviour with the desired behaviour, promote communication, social skills and language.
There are many different types of ABA, depending on the individual’s needs and age.
When to stop going for ABA therapy sessions
Since applied behavioural analysis doesn’t work for everyone, it is important to review whether or not it is helping the patient or not.
As reported by the council of autism service providers, ABA therapy should be stopped when :
- The goals of the program have been completed
- The patient doesn’t meet the criteria for autism spectrum disorders
- There is no progress for some time now
- The family members or therapist are unable to solve problems connected with the treatment plan
Other psychologists suggest that since there are no concrete rules on when you should stop ABA therapy, there are some factors to keep in mind when considering this option.
Low to no progress on treatment goals and assessments
Your ABA therapist must have been giving you constant updates on your child’s progress, generally every 6 months. This report consists of the progress made on the treatment goals, and how they performed on the assessment tools.
To analyze this data, you should look at the progress report. It consists of progress before the treatment, the current level of progress and the level which you aim to reach. Your BCBA ( A Board Certified Behavior Analyst), can help you assess the level of progress your child has made till now.
If the both of you feel that the treatment goals are not updated according to your child’s needs and personality, and there has been no significant progress for some time now, you should consider talking to your ABA therapist about changing things or maybe changing your therapist.
If your child has been making great progress, and the goals have been met you should think about ending or reducing your ABA therapy sessions.
Your child’s assessment progress can also be a good factor in helping you decide. If there has been no progress on the performance in the assessment tools since you started treatment (it is mentioned on the tool), you should think about termination therapy.
Some commonly used ABA assessment tools are vineland, VB-MAPP and essential for living.
You can also compare the progress reports with other children of the same age to help you understand more about the progress level.
Socially significant progress
This is essentially progress measured by your family and close ones. In ABA it’s referred to as social significance. You should think about your original goal for entering ABA. Has the therapy made your and your family’s life easier?
If the child has made considerable progress in this field, then it may be time to move on. For example, your child may have had problems interacting with you during the day, or problems eating lunch or difficulty wearing their clothes. If any of these issues have been resolved or progress has been made, then it may be time to discontinue ABA therapy.
On the other hand, if your child still struggles with these issues, then talk to your BCBA about modifying your program or terminating your therapy. Your BCBA may suggest modifying the treatment, to see if it was a problem with the plan itself. If there still isn’t progress, then discontinuing may work.
Although, if your goals have been met, you should discuss with the ABA therapist and your BCBA about new goals that may help your child. If there aren’t any, then your therapist may gradually end the sessions, by reducing the number of hours.
Financial and emotional ease
Since ABA therapy is quite expensive, not everyone can afford it. Similarly, because it’s around 40 hours a week, it is very draining for the child and the family.
It’s important to take these factors into consideration when you are deciding on how many hours of therapy you would like, as the free time could be spent doing more things. Even if you can spend a long time in therapy, it can take a toll on your finances.
You should prioritize your finances and emotional energy over the hours spent in therapy. Some people prefer enrolling their kids in camps or sports or other activities, where the kid can interact with other children and improve their social skills.
Spending time outside therapy, in a natural environment and with other people is also an important part of an autistic child’s growth and development.
You can choose to discontinue ABA therapy when you feel that you can’t financially afford it or it is emotionally draining for the child and you.
You should carefully consider if you will be able to handle the transition when you discontinue therapy. Since it’s a big change, it can be a difficult time and if you and your family are not equipped with the resources to deal with that, maybe reconsider your decision to end therapy.
If your child has made considerable progress, you and your family have naturally adjusted your schedules and behaviour according to that. So, before you, end therapy takes into consideration how everyone will react to this transition. Maybe you have scheduled new activities for the child after this, will you be able to handle that?
Do you and your family have the tools required to handle what comes after therapy ends? Do you have a transition plan to guide your child into their next phase?
If there is a big change scheduled such as changing schools or cities, this may not be the best time to end therapy. It can negatively impact the child and therapy will help the child easily transition into the change.
You should discuss this with your ABA provider and BCBA. they can help you with the transition and provide you with the tools needed for the same.
If they feel that you or the child won’t be able to handle it, they can reduce the speed of terminating the therapy.
Make sure that you know how to get in touch with your ABA provider, so that you can resume services if it’s getting hard to handle the transition or they can help you with it.
Discontinuing ABA therapy
Therapies can’t suddenly be discontinued. We need to follow a process where the sessions are gradually reduced and finally come to an end. This happens when either you decide to stop ABA therapy or the therapist feels that your child has mastered the goals.
By gradually reducing the number of hours, the therapist makes sure that the child doesn’t forget what they learned during their sessions, and are independent enough to continue without the therapy.
This makes the transition process easier for the child and their close ones.
The decision to end therapy is something that the child should also be a part of. If they feel that they are not ready to function without therapy, even after talking to their ABA therapist about this, you still have time to reconsider the decision.
This will help make the transition easier, as the child will feel more in control of their decisions. Sometimes this may not be possible as every child is different.
This step can provide you with extremely good insight that you may have been missing till now and help you make a more informed decision.
You also need to be in constant touch with your therapist and family member to get unbiased opinions about your child’s progress. This will also prepare your family and you for the upcoming transition.
The aim of ABA therapy is to improve the quality of the child’s life by equipping them with the required skills.
In this blog post, we talked about ABA therapy, and some factors to consider to help you decide when should you stop this therapy.
Frequently asked questions: when to stop aba therapy
How long should ABA therapy last?
On average, the treatment regime takes between one to three years. The recommended years vary from child to child and is decided depending on the age and severity of the autism diagnosis. Someone with a severity level of three will require more time than someone with a severity level of one.
At what age is ABA most effective?
Research says that ABA is most effective when children below 5 years are given therapy. Older children can also benefit from this, as it helps teach the children about social, behavioural and motor skills.
Why ABA is bad for autism?
Even though research has shown that ABA has been effective for treating autism spectrum disorders, some parents and self-advocating autistics are against using this therapy. Since its earliest version used punishments and rewards to teach the kids ideal behaviour, it is considered hard on the kids.
A lot of people also feel that it is very harsh on kids and turns them into shells of the original version.
Can ABA cure autism?
No, there is no cure for autism. The therapies invented for ASD, help with the symptoms. Research has shown that ABA has been proven the most effective at managing the symptoms and making the child independent.
It’s important to remember that this disorder presents differently in every child.
Does ABA work long term?
There is no proof that its results last long term, even in people who have been going to this therapy for 5, 10 or even 20 years.
How successful is ABA therapy?
Research states that 90% of the children who went for ABA therapy showed considerable improvement. During their research, they stated that it was difficult to differentiate them from their peers in terms of their behaviour and skills.
What are the 3 main symptoms of autism?
The 3 main symptoms are :
• Delayed milestones – all children start cooing, smiling, babbling or giggling at a certain age. If this doesn’t happen by the expected age, it’s considered a delayed milestone.
• A socially awkward child – the child avoids eye contact, does not like to be touched and does not respond to their name among other things.
• The child who has trouble with verbal and nonverbal communication – repeating the same words, having the same flat tone for everything they say and having difficulty understanding sarcasm or humour.
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Rudy, L.( 2021). What Is Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy for Autism? Retrieved from
ABA Treats a Problem Your Child Doesn’t Have. Retrieved from
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