Myths About The Autism Demonstration Project

15 – 30 Hours Per Week Of ABA Therapy Is Too Much/Unusual

FALSE! In fact, the opposite is true. Research studies have shown good results for ABA therapy programs that emphasize the “intensity” of the program. Children in the studies typically receive 30 – 40 hours per week of 1:1 therapy. Many well-respected research organizations have recommended this treatment. For example, the National Standards Report issued by the National Autism Center recommends that children receive at least 25 hours per week of an established treatment for 12 months per year and that treatment begin as soon as possible. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) discusses the success of ABA therapy at up to 40 hours per week. Autism Speaks also has a lot of information about ABA therapy, and defines “intensity” as 25 – 40 hours per week. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends treatment through a comprehensive therapy program, which should include “intensive intervention, with active engagement of the child at least 25 hours per week, 12 months per year.”

Quantity Does Not Beat Quality

FALSE! However, quality does not trump quantity either. 3-6 hours per week with a fantastic ABA therapist will yield minimal progress due to lack of repetition and practice. There are NO research studies that demonstrate effective low number ABA programs. In fact, a 1987 study by Dr. Ivar Lovaas compared the results of two groups of children: one group that received 40 hours per week of direct therapy and a second group that received 10 hours per week of direct therapy. The results showed that 47% of the 40 hour/week group achieved normal intellectual and educational functioning compared to the 2% of children in the 10 hour/week group who also achieved normal intellectual and educational functioning.

TRUE! Quality and quantity are both critical for an ABA program to be effective. A significant aspect of the ABA therapy technique is practice and repetition, with regression a common problem for children on the autism spectrum. Gaps between therapy sessions will inhibit a child’s progress and often lead to concepts being retaught. A lower number of hours may be appropriate for higher functioning children or children who have made significant progress and are not far behind their typically developing peers.

My Child Will Not Receive High Quality Therapy Under The Demonstration Program /
Paraprofessionals Should Not Be Allowed To Do The Direct Therapy.

FALSE! Major studies demonstrating the effectiveness of ABA therapy for children with autism have utilized this exact model (a program is designed and overseen by a high quality licensed/certified professional with direct intervention done by paraprofessionals.) Often, the studies use college students for the paraprofessional role. The quality of your child’s therapy will be strongly related to the quality of the professional guiding your child’s program, the quality of the training provided to the Behavior Technician, and the quality of the ongoing supervision provided by the professional. With well-trained and supervised staff and a high quality consultant, your child can make excellent progress.

Parents Are Solely Responsible For Deciding What Their Child Is Taught / ABA Providers Should Teach ONLY What the Parent Requests.

FALSE! Imagine your child has a medical symptom, such as a chronic stomachache and you took him/her to the doctor for help. The doctor asks you “So what tests should I run?” and “Do you want medicine for your child? And what kind?” As a parent, you may not know what tests are available or appropriate, or even the order tests should be administered. You may have some information about tests or treatments you would like the doctor to consider, but ultimately it’s the doctor’s job to examine the child and give their professional opinion about the necessary medical care.

While parent input is strongly desired and encouraged in the treatment of their child, they are not expected to bear the responsibility of creating the entire ABA therapy treatment plan. A good ABA therapy program should be systematically planned and tailored to address the child’s individual needs, utilizing parent input.

Parents Must Be Home / Attend All Therapy Sessions.

FALSE! No where in Tricare’s Demonstration Project policy does it require parents to be part of every single therapy session, or even be home during every single session. The Demonstration Project policy allows for therapy to be provided in a variety of environments, including the child’s home, school, and community. While parent involvement and participation is HIGHLY desired and encouraged in an ABA program, there are many reasons why a parent may not be involved in every session. For example, the child has difficulty separating from the parent or responding to anyone other than the parent, there are other children in the home the parent also needs to attend to, one or both parents are deployed, therapy is being provided at school, therapy is being provided during a social event for the child to work on social goals or the parent works.

My Child Is Too Young For ABA Therapy.

FALSE! All research in this area strongly indicates that the sooner a child begins therapy, the better their prognosis. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that intervention should begin “as soon as an ASD diagnosis is seriously considered rather that deferring until a definitive diagnosis is made.” The National Standards Report issued by the National Autism Center also recommends that treatment begin as soon as possible. Under Tricare’s Autism Demonstration Project, children are eligible for coverage as soon as they reach 18 months of age.

My Child Must Be Attending School To Be Eligible for The Demonstration Project

FALSE! This misconception tends to arise from the section of the Demonstration policy requiring parents to submit the child’s IEP or IFSP. However, if the child is not enrolled in school (whether too young, parent choice, or home-schooled), the Demonstration policy allows for the child’s doctor to submit a letter to replace the IEP / IFSP requirement.