How long does ABA therapy take to work?

ABA Therapy

ABA therapy is an evidence-based therapy designed with parents and children alike in mind. It is designed to improve important life skills along with the appropriate social behaviors necessary to live as independent and fulfilling lives as possible. Some students enter these programs via school references while others seek treatment and intervention from experienced professionals on their own, but one thing remains the same across both options: behavior analysis therapy is one of the most effective tools to help people with autism at almost any age.

With all of that said, there is some confusion as to how long ABA therapy takes to work. Teaching social skills and communication skills is not easy, and sometimes providers must work with children for years before progress is made. Sometimes, however, a behavior analyst is able to positively impact problem behaviors on a small scale over a duration as short as a few months. 

How long should your child be in applied behavior analysis therapies? Let’s take a closer look.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

What is Applied Behaviour Therapy

Before we dive into how long your child might spend in ABA therapy, let’s talk about how advocates say the treatment helps students. If your loved one is living with ASD, you’re likely well aware of the consequences of the condition. From issues in schools to difficulty connecting with loved ones, autism spectrum disorder is difficult for everyone involved with the individual in question. 

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy is designed to intervene in the lives of people with ASD in order to teach them the life skills needed for academic and social success. ABA embraces the challenges of neurodiversity and builds a positive learning environment where students with all manner of symptoms receive one-on-one care to help them build positive relationships in their community. 

What does ABA help us understand?

ABA helps us understand the ways in which the brain works when it comes to behavioral changes. Using a variety of methods, the therapy explores how someone’s brain works and seeks to effect positive changes in behavior. This includes all manner of things, not just communication ability. From the food we need to function well to the importance of caring for our teeth, ABA therapy can guide students’ self-care habits and improve their interactions with themselves as well as with their peers. In the United States, ABA therapy is one of the most common approaches to treating people with ASD and helping them live a normal and productive life. 

When should my child start ABA therapy?

While ABA therapy can help people with autism at many ages, it offers the most benefits when patients are between two and six years of age. This is the perfect age for long-term interventions and gives the best chance for positive outcomes. Keep in mind that the age at which your child begins to see ABA therapists can have an impact on how long your program takes, and if you begin treatment a bit later, your child might need to work with a therapist longer than other students. In general, however, children can expect to experience between four and six years in therapy sessions. 

Let’s take a closer look at ABA strategies and how long it might take to reach treatment goals. 

When should my child stop ABA therapy?

As with any treatment method, there is no set-in-stone end date for ABA therapy. The idea that a person will gain all possible benefits of ABA techniques within a time frame established before treatment even begins is a dated one. There are many different factors that influence how long students and caregivers need to interact with ABA therapy staff and continue to have routine sessions. Let’s look at a couple of them. 


The age at which ABA is begun impacts how long it takes to change behavior. Adults can benefit from this form of psychology, but typically to a lesser extent than children, and it usually takes longer for behavior change to take hold. Children, on the other hand, show results using ABA approaches much more quickly. Teens are typically able to experience significant growth after undergoing quality ABA sessions over time, but stand between children and adults when it comes to how long and to what extent therapy can help. Ideally, students begin therapy while their brain is still in active development and evolving rapidly. 

Co-occurring issues

Another factor to keep in mind when estimating how long your loved one might need to be in ABA therapy before it begins to work is co-occurring issues. Things like ADHD and OCD, for example, can negatively impact learning skills and learning rate, and, as a result, increase the difficulty students face in changing their behavior and learning new skills. If your learner struggles to study after a session due to a mental disorder or cognitive challenges, you might need to speak with the teacher or therapist to adapt the ABA approach being used. Don’t hesitate to speak up if you have any concerns regarding your child’s skill acquisition or the changes you see in their behavior (or don’t see in their behavior).

Familial support

ABA therapy might take place primarily with the individual living with autism, but it is not an individual endeavor. On the contrary, the most successful students have support from a familial group as well as other loved ones. From improving language skills to developing better command over behaviors, ABA students who are able to practice what they learn with their family members receive the reinforcement needed to maintain progress from session to session. 

How do I know when my child is ready to stop ABA therapy?

With all of the above in mind, how do you know when your child’s needs have been fully met and their overall goal of learning social skills and life skills has been met? The best thing you can do is ask the professionals. Don’t be afraid to ask questions throughout your child’s treatment process about their progress, difficulties, and strengths. ABA professionals in the field of psychology will be happy to address your concerns and explain your child’s sessions, including their interests, their assessments, their growth, and their ongoing needs, in detail. Having a conversation with the therapist working with your child can improve your understanding of their improvement and help you decide when your child has met their goals. 

If you’re looking for ABA therapists to help your child grow, reach out to us today for more information. 

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