School District Funding for ABA Therapy
For the families of children who are in need of treatment for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), obtaining funding from a variety of sources can be essential to providing their children with the support they need. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it can cost a family an estimated $17,000 or more per year to care for a child with ASD in comparison to a child without autism, with those cost increasing incrementally depending on the severity of the case.
With direct and indirect costs reaching into the tens of thousands, finding multiple funding sources is vital, and can include: private pay, health insurance, Medicaid, and school funding. For many families, private insurance is the first line of funding to cover autism therapies, with 45+ states and the District of Columbia enacting autism insurance reform laws. However, many of these critical services are capped by insurances, and thus school district funding for ABA therapy can prove to be viable means to offset the costs to families.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Initially enacted in 1975, and revised in recent years (including a renaming to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act), IDEA is a federal law that mandates each state must provide eligible children with early intervention and special education services.
IDEA entitles eligible children with disabilities, including those with ASD, to a “free and appropriate education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet thee child’s unique needs.” This allows for federal funding to be utilized by schools to provide FAPE to students aged 3 through 21 years old or until graduation or a GED is obtained. Programs designed for a student with ASD should be offered at no cost to parents.
ABA therapy providers should encourage parents to adequately research the processes needed to obtain funding for ABA therapy from a school district, as well as understand the importance of timely following the procedures needed to meet with district/campus contacts, and complete the appropriate paperwork.
As an ABA therapy provider, you should also help the parent seeking ABA therapy funding from a school to recognize that the services delivered will be developed in collaboration with the district/campus and various health professionals, rather than merely what the family would prefer. If the program developed allows the child to make adequate progress through the curriculum, this is considered FAPE.
If a family is aware, or believes that their child would benefit from IDEA services, then they may request an evaluation to help determine whether the student is eligible. This evaluation should be comprehensive and assess the child in a number of areas including academic, functional, and development skills across multi-disciplines.
This evaluation is traditionally completed by a qualified examiner, but if a family should desire, they can attempt to obtain an independent evaluation who is not employed through the campus or district. However, they should contact their insurance company first to ensure that their policy will cover these expenses.
If the child is evaluated and demonstrates a disability (i.e. autism) that can negatively affect their educational performance, then they may be eligible for a number of services., including ABA therapy.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and Services
If eligibility has been positively determined, it is the responsibility of the school district to develop what is known as an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The IEP must be based on the comprehensive evaluation of the child and should address a number of issues including academic, functional, and developmental needs.
Alongside addressing these issues, the IEP should also include but is not limited to:
- A statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement
- A statement of measurable annual goals
- A description of how a child’s progress will be measured
- A statement of services that will be provided to, or on behalf of the child
The services to be rendered as described through the IEP will vary depending on the locality. Each state and region has adopted the federal mandates governing these services differently, however, they should still minimize the effects of the disabilities on the child’s educational growth and should not be limited by locale.
Services will be determined by the student’s needs and may include but are not limited to:
- Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy
- Speech and language instruction
- Services in specialized settings
- Occupational or physical therapy
- Psychological evaluations
- Training for family members
- Related services
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy through IDEA (school) Funding
The process of obtaining school district funding for ABA therapy begins with evaluation for IDEA services. The IEP evaluation should agree that disabilities of a child with autism will impede the child’s education.
However, it often falls on the shoulders of the parents to move the process forward when seeking funding for this form of therapy. As previously mentioned, it often benefits families to obtain an qualified independent evaluator in these scenarios, so they they can provide sufficient evidence to support the need for these specific services.
An ABA therapist, Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or BCBA-D can be a valuable partner in evaluating your child’s needs and making the necessary recommendations to help a parent obtain ABA therapy services that will allow their child to make reasonable academic progress.
By emphasizing that the goal of ABA therapy is to develop the verbal and social skills necessary for a child to move from being motivated mainly by the sensory/motor stimuli in their environment to being motivated by verbal social interaction with other people, the support of an ABA provider can prove to be monumental.
Amvik Solutions can support you in your role as a provider to families.
At Amvik Solutions, we understand the effort that it takes to run a successful ABA practice. We also recognize how vital insurance credentialing, medical billing, and practice management software can be. That’s why we offer a bevy of services that can help you to increase your patient-load, receive payment for your claims, and do what you do best—provide meaningful, quality ABA therapy services.
Contact us today at (805) 277-3392 to find out more about our services.