Did you know that, according to the 2013 Autism Speaks National Housing and Residential Supports Survey, 22% of caregivers listed “Don’t know where to find help” as a barrier to receiving outside support for their loved one on the spectrum?
While that statistic isn’t specific to ABA therapy, it is indicative of the challenge facing many autism families in America today. Not knowing where to find help is a significant struggle.
Chances are, you already know how important it is for your child to receive consistent, professional ABA therapy, but what happens when such support isn’t readily available, when the resources in your area are few and far between?
At FirstPath Autism, we understand that just knowing where to look is half the battle. So, without further ado, here are a few tips to securing services.
1. Seek personal recommendations from peers and educators you trust.
The first step to finding high-quality ABA providers in your community is to simply ask. Ask your fellow parents and your child’s teacher or school administrator too. Make a list of the providers that they recommend, along with relevant details and contact information.
Likewise, explore working with your child’s school to get ABA therapy support as well. In-school supports can be difficult to obtain, but it’s worth investigating the option.
At this stage, don’t worry about potential costs. We know how tempting it is to jump five steps ahead and decide your family can’t afford additional ABA therapy, but try to press pause on financial considerations for the moment.
Why? First, tabling finances will give you space to consider the best fit for your child and your family. See what’s available and get a sense for all possible options before rejecting any.
Next, you may find that financial assistance is available as you query further. You won’t know how much help you can receive until you ask.
Lastly, this mindset will allow you to focus all your energy on the task at hand. This phase is about gathering information, not running numbers.
2. Research local support options online.
With your list in hand, go online and research the specific services each ABA provider offers. Review their websites and online listings. Then, seek out other regional options that might not be on your current list.
As we wrote in our blog post How to find autism support in a services desert:
“Two helpful places to start are: The Autism Society of America’s online directory and the Autism Speaks state-by-state resource guide. Thanks to them, you can browse listings of service providers, specialists, and support groups in your area.”
P.S. – If you’re seeking additional in-home support, don’t forget to give FirstPath a try! Our extensive video library of ABA lessons is always available to you, and you can start your free 14-day trial anytime.
3. Explore your insurance coverage.
The United States is in the midst of national autism insurance reform. As such, more and more insurance carriers are including coverage for ABA therapy for individuals with autism. However, insurance laws vary widely on a state-to-state basis.
As of this writing, 43 states have enacted some level of autism insurance reform. Visit Autism Speaks’ State Initiatives page to learn about autism insurance reform in your particular state. Also check your provider’s website or call their helpline to get exact details on your plan’s coverage.
Finally, remember that according to the December 2014 ABLE Act, autism families can create tax-exempt 529A savings accounts for disability-related expenses. This can go a long way towards helping you save for ABA coverage.
4. Make a list of providers, and analyze the benefits and drawbacks.
Once you have all your information organized in a list or table, evaluate each option. Take time to consider:
Is this provider properly accredited and certified?
You’ll want to look for the BCBA designation, which stands for Board Certified Behavior Analyst. This indicates a graduate-level certification.
That said, a BCaBA (a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst with an undergraduate-level certification) and a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) can provide qualified services under the supervision of a BCBA.
For more on the difference between these certifications, visit the Behavior Analyst Certification Board Credentials page.
Which provider seems like the best fit for our family?
You’ll want to meet the potential provider, perhaps at a support group, respite event, or outreach geared toward welcoming new families. If that’s not possible, make a phone call so that you can get a more personal sense for the service.
What’s the driving distance and time commitment involved with getting to and from each provider?
While we understand that sometimes accessing quality services necessitates traveling, it is important to consider how additional ABA therapy will affect your family schedule and transportation costs.
Do your best to pick a provider within your local community, and you’ll reduce both expenses and stress.
How much does our insurance cover, and what other financial assistance is available?
With your insurance information in hand, calculate the net cost of therapy sessions. Also take into account any private-pay discounts or special rates that providers may offer.
5. Make your selection.
By now, you probably have a much clearer sense of the decision at hand. There may be one option that rises above the rest. If not, though, don’t worry; you can set up trial ABA sessions as needed.
Most of all, take heart! The investment of time and energy that you’ve put into finding appropriate ABA support for your child will pay in developmental dividends for years to come.