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Health Information Center

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

An ABA program is a behavioral teaching approach that is divided into easy-to-learn steps.  Praise or other rewards are used to motivate the child so that the desired behavior increases and the problem behavior decreases.  The child’s progress is recorded and tracked so that the teaching program can be adjusted as needed. 

What is the parent’s role in an ABA program?

Parents play an important role in the child’s program, because no one knows the child better than the parent.  Parents provide input and critical information that helps move the program forward.  During the program, parents learn the steps to prompt and reinforce their child through his or her daily activities, and record their child’s progress at home and within the community.  When parents are actively engaged and supportive in the process children can make measurable gains.

Steps to getting an ABA program started for your child:

  1. If you think an ABA program may help your child, talk to your primary care physician about a referral for an evaluation. If your primary care physician has recommended ABA therapy for your child, or if your child has already received an evaluation, the following steps will help you get started.
  2. Prior to your first ABA appointment, it’s good to know what costs your insurance provider will cover. To assist you in making the first steps to acquiring information about coverage, below are some general questions to ask your current insurance provider; the number for your insurance provider is located on the back of your insurance card:
    • Does my plan offer mental health insurance?
    • What behavioral intervention plans are covered under my plan?
    • In my area, what ABA service providers are considered in-network?
    • What is my deductible?
    • What co-payments am I responsible for?
    • How many therapy sessions per year does my health insurance cover, and what is the coverage amount per session that is covered under my health insurance?
    • Do I need approval from my health insurance prior to my first ABA appointment?
    • Should I also apply for State insurance, to help cover any costs?

    Your health insurance and/or ABA provider may ask you to apply for State insurance to help pick up any costs or as a backup insurance to your current health insurance.  To learn if your child is eligible for Medical Assistance in Minnesota, contact your local county office. For more information about eligibility for Medical Assistance in MN for children with disabilities visit the Minnesota Department of Human Services website.

  3. If you received a list of ABA in-network service providers from your health insurance, contact those providers to find a fit that’s right for you and your child.  If your health insurance provider was not able to provide you with a list of local providers, the Minnesota Northland Association for Behavior Analysis directory may assist you in your search.  Please note, there are other local ABA providers beyond this list. 

If your current private insurance does not cover ABA, or if you do not have insurance, call the disability services unit at your local county office regarding public insurance eligibility.