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10 Questions to Ask When Looking for a New ABA Provider

Whether you are looking to start your child with applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy or are looking to switch providers, here are ten questions you should be asking to help make sure you choose the right one for your child.

Alex Hurtado
Neurodiversity Advocate

November 20, 2023

1. Will there be consistent caregiver training?

Caregiver involvement is one of the biggest drivers of your child’s success. You should be an active participant in your child’s therapies.  Working with your therapist will allow you to pick up different tips and techniques to use at home to help reinforce learnings outside the center!

2. What ABA methods do you practice?

There are many different approaches to ABA therapy and it is important that you choose a provider that utilizes approaches and techniques that are right for your child. The most common types of ABA therapy include traditional, structured ABA approaches (e.g., DTT - Discrete Trial Training) or more naturalistic, play-based approaches (e.g., ESDM - Early Start Denver Model or PRT - Pivotal Response Training).

Ask potential providers questions like “What happens if my child doesn’t perform a desired behavior?” (For example, if your child is prompted to share a toy or wave to a friend and doesn’t.) You may also want to ask, “What happens when my child does perform a request?” (High fives, praise, treats?) Stay away from ABA providers who rely heavily on tokens (like candy or treats) or those who use punishment of any kind. No therapy provider should ever scold, ridicule, humiliate, use physical punishment, withhold needs, or any other kind of punishment. You want to ensure that your child’s ABA provider aligns with your personal values, and that they’re on the same page with the goals you have for your child.

3. What insurance do you accept? 

Under most circumstances, your child must receive a formal autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis in order for insurance to cover ABA services. First, you will want to confirm that your health plan covers ABA therapy. Then, you will want to look for ABA providers that accept your insurance. 
Major insurances like United Healthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Missouri Medicaid (MO Healthnet), Cigna, and Aetna should cover ABA therapy.

4. Is there a BCBA on staff and how will they be involved in my child’s therapy?

Behavior therapists or behavior consultants are not the same thing as a BCBA (Board Certified Behavioral Analyst). In order to be a BCBA, an individual must have a certain level of education, pass an exam, and be licensed by a national board. 
You’ll want to choose an ABA provider with at least one, potentially more, BCBAs on staff. And you want to look for providers where a BCBA will be directly involved in your child’s therapy. 

5. How many clients does each BCBA supervise at one time?

A BCBA won’t only be overseeing your child’s care, but multiple children at once. The average caseload for a BCBA is 10-15 children at a time. You’ll want to look for a provider with BCBAs managing smaller caseloads so that your child gets more attention. BCBAs that carry a workload of 15+ children, can easily burn out and may not provide your child with quality care. 

6. How often will my child’s Behavior Technicians be supervised by the BCBA?

Your child’s Behavior Technicians will likely be the members of their team you interact with the most. Behavior Technicians are required to receive a minimum of 5% of their hours supervised by a BCBA. Understanding the provider’s supervision policy (specifically, the supervision percentage) can inform if the Behavior Technicians are sufficiently prepared to support your child.  As we mentioned, you want to make sure you find an ABA provider who has heavily involved BCBAs. Behavior Technicians typically receive only entry level training, so ensuring your child gets a quality experience will depend on the BCBA observing, working with your child, adjusting their care plan, and offering feedback to the technicians. 
The golden rule is: the more supervision, the better!

7. How do you communicate with parents and how often? 

You’ll want to be kept in the loop when it comes to your child’s care and progress. Find out how members of your child’s ABA team will communicate with you and how often. Will they send emails, text messages, or give you a call? Will it be every week or every month? And how will they handle potential emergencies?  
Just as important, you’ll want to find out how you can communicate with your child’s care team and how quickly you can expect a response.

8. How many behavior technicians (BT) will be working with my child?

It is not uncommon for your child to have more than one BT working with them. Oftentimes clinics will rotate BTs to prevent potential burnout and to help get children used to other staff members. This is ok, and can even be beneficial if the rotation is not done too frequently. 

9. What is your evaluation/assessment process and how long does it take?

Although evaluation and assessments won’t take place until after you select a provider, it is still important to get an idea of what this process will look like. What kind of information will they need from you? What sort of assessments and tests do they depend on? Will there be observations or interviews conducted? 

You’ll also want to find out how long this process takes. On average this stage can take anywhere from one to four weeks.

10. Do you have a waitlist and if so how long is the average wait time before a child will start to receive services? 

Many ABA providers will have a waitlist. While researching and reviewing prospective ABA providers you will want to find out if they have a waitlist and what the average wait time is before a child’s services will begin. You will also want to ask if there is less of a wait for different time slots. 

Reviewed by:

Laura Barnes

Laura has 14 years of BCBA experience that involves leading clinical teams and designing seminars and workshops for clinicians and families. She serves as the Senior Clinical Director of Atlas and is dedicated to learning from all and disseminating all that she learns.

Authored by:

Alex Hurtado
Neurodiversity Advocate

Alex partners closely with neurodiverse families, clinical experts, and advocates to bring you helpful guides.