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Center-Based vs In-Home ABA Therapy: Which is Right for Your Child with Autism? 

Now that you’ve decided that applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy is the right choice for your child, the next decision you have to make is whether to choose a center-based or in-home ABA therapy program.

Alex Hurtado
Neurodiversity Advocate

October 20, 2023

Center-Based ABA Therapy

If you choose a center-based ABA therapy program, you will need to travel with your child to an autism therapy center. At the center, a therapist will work one-on-one with your child to achieve their unique goals. Many center programs will also offer group activities where your child can build their social skills with other children and therapists. 

Benefits of Center-Based ABA Therapy

Some of the benefits of center-based ABA therapy include:

  • Builds structure: Some studies suggest that children participating in a center-based ABA program may progress faster than those in an in-home program. That may be due to the fact that when therapy takes place at home a child may be tempted by familiar distractions and may struggle to focus. With center-based programs, the child knows that when they come to the center it is time to focus and learn. 
  • Engages more therapists: With in-home therapy, a child has a dedicated therapist all to themselves, but that also means that is the only therapist to observe your child. In a center, there are multiple therapists around who will have the opportunity to observe your child. This will allow your child’s therapist to discuss and collaborate on the best ways to help your child progress with other therapists in the center. 
  • Helps with transition to kindergarten: A common goal for children in ABA is to prepare them for the transition to common mainstream environments, like a classroom. A center-based program may more closely resemble a classroom-type environment and may make the transition easier. It will also be easier for the child to practice that transition. 
  • Encourages social interactions: A center-based program will give your child more opportunities to socially interact with peers and practice their social skills in a safe environment. 

In-Home ABA Therapy

If you decide to choose an in-home ABA therapy program, the therapist may come to your home on a regular schedule to work with your child to achieve their specific goals. 

Benefits of In-Home ABA Therapy

Some of the benefits of in-home ABA therapy include: 

  • Lowers transition hurdles: Children, especially in their early years, do most of their learning at home. Children are more at ease in familiar environments. For young children, no place is as familiar as home. Also, with therapy happening at home, in a child’s natural day-to-day environment, their therapist will be able to more easily observe their natural behavior.  
  • Offers convenience: In-home ABA therapy eliminates the need to transport your child to a new location. This saves you time commuting and preparing your child for a car ride. 
  • Eases family involvement: BCBAs are not with your child all the time, but you are. ABA is most effective when parents, family members and other caregivers are able to reinforce the things being addressed in therapy after the therapist is gone. In-home therapy makes it easier for families to get involved and learn some of the different techniques the therapist may be using. Your child’s BCBA may even be able to involve other family members in the child’s session and observe how family members interact with one another. 
  • Incorporates daily living skills: Some behaviors and skills are more easily addressed at home, where they naturally occur. In-home therapy will allow your child’s therapist to more easily address daily living skills like - 
  • Getting dressed
  • Toileting
  • Eating at mealtime 
  • Bedtime
  • Teeth brushing

Choosing the Right ABA Therapy Program for Your Child

When deciding which type of ABA therapy program is right for your child, you want to pick the plan that best fits your child and your family's needs. You’ll want to think about your child’s specific goals, including future goals to succeed in early educational environments.

You can click here to learn more about our center-based ABA program.

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.