School District Resources

Do Schools Have to Provide ABA Therapy?

ABA therapy is a critical service for many students, and can help create a brighter future for children. Often, schools are required by law to provide ABA therapy, depending on the students’ IEP and diagnosis. 

ABA Therapy in Public Schools

ABA stands for Applied Behavior Analysis, which is a science-backed therapy that strives to increase positive learning and behavior outcomes. In special education, many students benefit from ABA therapy, depending on their specific needs and challenges. Public schools are required to provide ABA therapy services if the terms of IDEA apply to the individual student, while private schools are not held to that law. In other cases, ABA therapy may not fit the accommodations of the student, and families would have to pursue the services independent of the school.

If the therapy is determined to be “appropriate” under IDEA’s FAPE condition, then services must be provided by the district. These accommodations are guaranteed to those public school students, as determined by the IEP and BIP of the student. If a student needs ABA therapy, they are entitled to those services, regardless of how many other students require them. Many students with an autism spectrum disorder, for example, benefit from ABA techniques. If those services are deemed integral, according to IDEA, all qualifying students should receive ABA therapy.

Funding for ABA Therapy

If a student qualifies for ABA therapy, there are three primary avenues of funding to cover all or part of the cost. The first path that parents often pursue is through their child’s school. Depending on individual situations, schools may offer ABA therapy to students, if they qualify under IDEA. A second option for families is to utilize private insurance to cover the expenses of ABA therapy. Whether insurance fully covers these services depends on specific factors, unique to each student’s diagnosis, and behavioral and learning needs.

The third option, and one that is under explored, is government funding. If treatment is considered medically necessary for the student, Medicaid will cover 100% of the cost. Another option to look into is an HCBS (Home and Community-Based Services) waiver option, which can also cover the expense of ABA therapy. The State Department of Developmental Disabilities is available to help families that qualify for services, as is the Social Security department.

Many services within ABA therapy are covered by government funding. Focused ABA and Comprehensive ABA are covered by Medicare and other funding options, depending on the learning challenge and the medical necessity of services. Functional analysis assessments are usually included, as are program and treatment plan development, and data analysis. Some aspects of ABA therapy that may not be covered by government funding include group sessions, except for social skills group sessions – but those meetings no more than twice a week.

Do You Have to Have a Diagnosis for ABA Therapy?

To receive ABA therapy, children may not need to have a diagnosis; it varies by state. Frequently, for insurance to cover the treatment, you will need a diagnosis. Coverage limits range widely, so it is important to check your state’s details (you can check state-by-state parameters here). While this resource provides valuable information, it is specific to ABA therapy for children with autism, and may not reflect the learning challenges other students face. Another useful resource for parents with questions about who qualifies for ABA therapy is

If a parent does not have the resources to seek a diagnosis outside of school, or if a child is undiagnosed before school starts, there are options. Parents can request an evaluation through the school, and school psychologists can diagnose specific challenges, such as ASD, during the assessment. Additionally, any changes or modifications to the student’s educational program, including ABA therapy, will be guided by the student’s IEP under IDEA’s tenets. The IEP team, including parents, teachers, and specialists, determine the appropriate course of action. Parents may disagree with the evaluation results and are entitled to seek out an independent evaluation if they so desire.

The Benefits of ABA Therapy

How does ABA therapy work? It is a proven, evidence-based methodology used to treat several disorders. Each learning challenge is unique, and ABA therapists tailor their approach to fit each one. So, what can ABA therapy help with? The primary disorders that ABA therapy benefits are as follows.

  • Autism

ABA therapy is the most commonly used technique to treat individuals with autism. With an approach of positive reinforcement, therapists can help children identify triggers and increase social interactions.

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Students with ADHD have a specific set of challenges. By analyzing the ABC (antecedent-behavior-consequence) of students with ADHD, ABA therapists can help stymie negative reactions and focus on reaching their goals.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD affects increasing numbers of children and young adults. The anxiety that individuals with PTSD feel can overwhelm them and therapists supply coping strategies to help.

  • Panic Disorder

ABA therapy can also be useful for individuals with panic disorder. Therapists teach specific techniques, which alleviates some of the stress and overpowering feelings of panic disorder.

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

By using affirmations, ABA therapists can supply valuable tools to children with OCD. The result for many people is an increase in self-esteem and a calmer approach to problems.

As a therapeutic approach, ABA for children has been extensively studied. It has proven to be effective, with measurable results. Besides supplying children with coping tools, ways to improve their self-worth, and increasing positive behaviors, ABA has other benefits. It teaches life abilities, along with social skills. It is personalized to individual students so that each person can reach their goals and objectives. In general, many students show an increase in positive behavior, as they can identify triggers and antecedents. The therapy improves attention, memory, and communication capabilities, resulting in improved learning.

The Need for ABA Therapy

The special education student is a dynamic, multifaceted individual. Often, the IEP outlines much more than just academic challenges. ABA therapy is one of those critical services that many individuals require, and under IDEA, ABA therapy must be provided to students who qualify.

Families have several options for therapy funding, including government options. Parents have many avenues to pay for their child’s services, from Medicaid to waivers to departmental programs. With the impact and efficacy of ABA therapy at their fingertips, parents can reap the benefits of this individualized assistance. Students can improve not only in their learning and behavioral challenge areas but also in social interactions and practical life skills.

ABA therapy in public schools is in significant demand, and for good reason. Therapists are valuable members of school communities, ready and willing to affect positive outcomes for all of the students they serve.

At ProCare Therapy, we provide schools with only the best, highly-qualified ABA therapists. Find the perfect fit for your school today.