ABA Insights: A Review of Medical Recommendations for ABA Service Hours

ABA Insights: A Review of Medical Recommendations for ABA Service Hours

When a family first begins services with an ABA provider, a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) will conduct an initial assessment. In this initial assessment, the BCBA will work with a family to identify goals for both caregivers and their children.  Goals may be created in areas such as communications skills, social skills, or challenging behaviors.  In addition, based upon the number of goals needed, a BCBA will make a medical recommendation for the number of weekly service hours an individual should receive.  

The number of service hours that an individual client is going to vary based upon the number of goals needed within an individualized plan of care.  According to the Council of Autism Service Providers (CASP), there are two types of service delivery models: focused and comprehensive programs.  

Within a focused program, treatment for clients allows for a limited number of targeted goals. Focused ABA treatment is most appropriate for individuals who do not present with multiple, severe deficits related to an autism diagnosis. Focused ABA programs typically provide less than 30 hours per week of ABA treatment, with the total target number of hours varying from client to client. Clients who participate in comprehensive ABA treatment are those who presents with multiple, severe deficits related to their autism diagnosis. Comprehensive ABA treatment tend to consist of 30-40 service hours per week (CASP). 

When a family first hears their child’s medical recommendation for services, this number can be overwhelming. The purpose of starting with a high number of service hours for an individual who presents with multiple, severe deficits of autism spectrum disorder is to enable the ABA team adequate time to be able to implement programming frequently. Often, individuals receiving 30-40 hours per week of ABA treatment are participating in early intervention services.  By starting services at an early age and high intensity, ABA service providers can quickly address skill deficits that may prevent a child from being successful in other environments, such as school. In addition, the goal is to fade from a comprehensive model quickly and to focus on generalization of skills outside of ABA sessions.   

If an individual does not participate in ABA services according to their medical recommendation, the effectiveness of services may be jeopardized.  By starting at a lower tiered hours delivery, an ABA treatment team will be unable to target as many skill areas as needed. This may prolong the length of treatment for an individual or prevent them from making the progress in addressing the severe deficits related to the severity of their autism deficits.  

To learn more about Carolina Center for ABA and Autism Treatment’s service delivery models, please explore our website!



Council of Autism Service Providers.  Applied Behavior Analysis Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Practice Guidelines for Healthcare Funders and Managers.