When to Stop ABA Therapy: A Parent’s Guide

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As a parent, you want what’s best for your child. But when it comes to ABA therapy how do you know when it’s time to stop? This article will provide more insight on various factors to help you decide when to fade out of ABA therapy and focus your resources on other areas.

Recognizing Progress and Achievements

Recognizing progress and achievements is an important factor to consider when determining when to stop ABA therapy for a child. As therapy progresses, it is crucial to evaluate the child’s development and assess the goals that have been met. Children never stop learning and as they hit new milestones a re-assessment of their new skill sets and areas to improve should be re-evaluated. If the child has shown significant improvement in targeted skills and behaviours, demonstrating consistent and independent functioning in various environments, it may be an indication that they have achieved the desired outcomes and are ready to transition out of ABA therapy. Regular assessments and consultations with therapists and professionals can help guide this decision-making process and ensure that the child’s needs and progress are continuously monitored.

Assessing Skill Mastery and Generalization

Another factor to determine when to stop ABA therapy involves assessing the child’s skill mastery and ability to generalize learned behaviors. It is essential to ensure that the child has acquired and consistently demonstrates the targeted skills across various settings and with different people. This includes not only performing the skills in the therapy setting but also applying them in natural environments, such as home, school, and community. The ability to generalize learned behaviours indicates that the child has internalized the skills and can independently apply them in real-life situations without contrived variables.

Regular assessments and progress monitoring are crucial in evaluating the child’s skill acquisition and generalization to determine if they have reached a point where continued therapy is no longer necessary. It is also important to ensure the child has maintained their progress over time. If progress stops because therapy stopped, then all the prior effort in learning new skills has been wasted. The decision to stop ABA therapy should be based on careful consideration of the child’s progress, functional independence, and overall development, with input from the professional team and the child’s parents or caregivers.

Limitations to Long Term ABA Therapy

While ABA therapy can be highly effective in promoting skill development and behaviour change, there are certain limitations to consider when deciding when to stop therapy in the long term. One limitation is that ABA therapy may not be necessary or beneficial for individuals who have reached their treatment goals and have maintained their progress over an extended period. In such cases, continued therapy may not offer significant additional gains. Additionally, as individuals with autism grow older and transition into different stages of life, their needs and priorities may change. Another factor is that ABA therapy is expensive, and it might not be manageable to continue long term. Some families use funding or insurance coverage, but there are families who pay out of pocket for ABA therapy. ABA therapy is also intensive and some families may find it difficult to keep up with the intense and frequent schedule in their family routines.

It is important to assess whether the current goals and strategies of ABA therapy align with the individual’s evolving needs and if other interventions or support services may be more appropriate. Regular reevaluation and open communication between the treatment team, parents, and individuals themselves are crucial in determining when it is appropriate to conclude ABA therapy and explore other avenues of support and development.

Transitioning to Less Intensive Supports

As a child or individual with autism develops and gains essential skills, there may come a time when the intensity and frequency of ABA therapy can be reduced. Transitioning to less intensive supports can involve gradually decreasing the number of therapy sessions, shifting from one-on-one therapy to group settings, or focusing on generalization of skills in natural environments. As we fade out our ABA therapy sessions, we may start prioritizing new goals and activities. It is important for parents, caregivers, and therapists to collaborate and regularly assess the individual’s progress and readiness for a transition. There is no ‘appropriate time’ to stop ABA therapy but ultimately that is a long term goal as our clients will eventually develop and grow into a better version of themselves. The decision to reduce or discontinue ABA therapy should be made with careful consideration and should take into account the individual’s ongoing support needs and opportunities for continued growth and development.

Considering Individual Needs and Goals

Our clients come before anything else. It is essential to regularly assess the progress and development of the individual receiving therapy and evaluate if the initial treatment goals have been achieved. For example, does it make sense for the child to work on a goal endlessly until they are independent? Sometimes that might not make sense and there will be a time to evaluate when to stop support. Are we leaving the clients with skills to open new doors or advocate for themselves? Sometimes the goals may have shifted from our initial intentions but all these factors should be accounted for in a decision to stop ABA therapy. Every child is different and the ‘end’ of therapy does not look the same for everyone.

Additionally, it is important to consider the individual’s ongoing needs and whether they have reached a level of functional independence that allows them to navigate their daily life successfully. The child may also develop new interests and goals that may be out of scope for the ABA professionals on the team and other supports or resources may be more applicable to the child. Finally, sometimes therapy might not yield the results we originally wanted to see and making the decision to stop therapy to focus on our interventions and therapies might be what needs to happen to ensure we are not causing learning delays or unintentional harm to the child. The decision to discontinue ABA therapy should be based on an individualized evaluation that takes into account the specific needs, goals, and circumstances of the person, and should involve input from parents, caregivers, and the therapy team to ensure the best outcome for the individual’s long-term success.

Collaborating with Therapists and Professionals

Collaboration with therapists and professionals is crucial when determining the appropriate time to stop ABA therapy. The input and expertise of the therapy team, including behavior analysts, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and other professionals involved in the individual’s care, can provide valuable insights and guidance. Regular meetings and discussions should take place to review progress, assess goals, and evaluate the individual’s overall development. Through open communication and shared decision-making, the therapy team and caregivers can collaboratively determine if the individual has reached a point where they have acquired the necessary skills and strategies to thrive independently or with less intensive supports. Ongoing collaboration ensures that the decision to discontinue ABA therapy is made with careful consideration and in the best interest of the individual’s long-term success.


When should ABA therapy be stopped?

The decision to stop ABA therapy should be based on the individual’s progress, mastery of skills, and achievement of goals. It is typically recommended to discontinue ABA therapy when the individual has acquired the necessary skills and strategies to function independently or with reduced support, as determined through ongoing assessment and collaboration with the therapy team. Some families spend at least 2-3 years in ABA early intervention.

Is it OK to take a break from ABA therapy?

Yes, it is sometimes appropriate to take a break from ABA therapy. Taking a break can provide an opportunity for rest, reflection, and reassessment of goals, and can be done in collaboration with the therapy team to ensure the best course of action for the individual’s needs. In addition, ABA therapy can be very intensive and frequent which requires everyone to prioritize it. If families are not in the position to prioritize ABA therapy, a break would be beneficial.

What is the time commitment for ABA therapy?

The time commitment for ABA therapy can vary depending on the individual’s needs and goals. Typically, ABA therapy involves several hours of therapy sessions per week, and the duration of therapy can range from several months to several years, depending on the progress and outcomes achieved. An early intervention schedule will have approximately 10 hours of direct intervention a week for 2-3 years before the child starts attending school.

How long is too long for ABA session?

The length of an ABA therapy session can vary depending on the individual’s age, attention span, and goals. Generally, sessions for young children may be shorter, ranging from 1 to 2 hours, while sessions for older individuals may extend to 2 to 3 hours. ABA sessions can also be held in the community as a more naturalistic setting, and community sessions can range from 3-5 hours. However, it’s important to consider the individual’s needs and ensure that the session length is appropriate and beneficial for them.