How to Interview an ABA Provider

How to Interview an ABA Provider

If your child is in need of ABA services for autism, you should have no shortage of service providers to look at. Not all ABA service providers are created equal. Asking specific questions in your interview with any potential ABA provider is the best way to determine if they can help with your child’s needs.

Here’s a list of questions you should ask in any interview with a potential ABA service provider.

Interview Questions ask ABA Service Providers

How Many Hours of Therapy Does My Child Need?

This question will have a different answer for every child, as each child has unique needs. A BCBA should be recommending hours for your child–not the company or corporate policy. If you are considering a care provider who has ‘set times’ for programs, your child may not receive the correct amount of time for their needs.

Does Your Program have Behavior Requirements?

Some behaviors and issues will need to change over time, but forcing the issue through strict programs or adherence to certain behaviors is not the way to go. Be sure to routinely check your child’s program and progress if you think any requirements of the program are too strict.

ABA therapy works to help people with ASD adapt to neurotypical social norms. Having strict requirements to not allow normal ASD behaviors may lead to unnecessary behavioral challenges with many people.

Can I Observe the Program or My Child in the Program?

One of the most important aspects of ABA therapy is continuing a program at home. Information should always be available on how your child is progressing. If an ABA service provider refuses to share information or allow observation you may want to take a closer look at the program.

Daily records should be available to parents if they want to know what is going on in treatment. If an ABA service provider is unable to share information, it may be time to take a closer look. Quick note: information and records may take a few days to be logged, each clinic is different.

Do You Develop Plans Separately for Each Child?

In order to get the most out of ABA therapy, each child needs a custom-built program. ABA programs built on general needs will not help each child enough to address specific behaviors and needs

If you are presented with a brochure of programs or therapy ‘packages’ mentioned in a consultation, you need to really look at what is being offered. More often than not your child’s needs will not be met with a universal ABA therapy plan. Package deals for ABA therapy are not actually ABA therapy. Proper ABA therapy programs need to be individually created for each person.

ABA Therapy from IABA Consultants

If you have questions regarding autism treatment, education, or plans to use ABA therapy, we are here for you! Our goal is to make sure no family is turned away due to financial constraints. Our therapy team would love to talk to you. Find the location closest to you and give us a call. We’re here for you.



This past weekend I celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Instructional ABA Consultants. 10th! It is hard to believe that a decade ago, with no business experience whatsoever, I founded this company. A decade ago I was 25, clinically talented, and pissed as hell that my clients with state funding were not able to access services.

I celebrated our 10-year anniversary by walking into our Oak Lawn clinic and meeting the first Medicaid client in our company on his first day of ABA therapy. A decade later we are still on a mission to provide access to care across funding sources. The difference (among many) is that a decade later I stand with my work tribe leading together; it is not just me anymore. It’s us building my business.

There are many times I look at myself in disbelief.  It’s hard to imagine that fresh out of graduate school with a new degree and passion I would be able to forge my way into the creation of my company. At the time I was fearless. I simply saw that there were thousands of individuals with autism and disabilities being denied care in Illinois because of their funding; medically necessary care. Money, not humanity, was making the decision for them.

Life Changing ABA Funding

As a clinician, I knew that applied behavior analysis was/and is life-changing. It is a science that seeks to understand why an individual has a barrier to learning & communication and can use maladaptive behaviors instead. Each client I worked with before founding Instructional ABA Consultants had something to say and the science of behavior analysis gave me the tools to listen. 

The tools to listen to a child who was non-verbal but wanted to speak. To listen to a blind man and hear he was hitting others because he was scared when they approached him from behind. To listen to an adult with autism who routinely hit his peers because his feet hurt and he needed new shoes; he was in pain. And tools to listen to the parents who had willingly signed their children up for residential care only to find their children malnourished, abused, and traumatized. To hold all of their hands with care and kindness while offering them treatment that worked. 

Yet this treatment was short-lived. When the crisis ended and our team was discharged the treatment program ended. The clients were left to live a life without ongoing care, their parents at the mercy of a system without the type of therapy and care their children needed. What might have seemed impossible to others seemed so simple to me. These families have state funding, I have a license and the science they need. Why not just put the two together? That is exactly what I did.

Making Positive Changes Yourself

In the beginning, Instructional ABA Consultants was just me and a caseload of perhaps 20 clients. I knew then that I would have to learn about how to scale my own services by building an organization that had my mission at its heart and the science implemented correctly. These past 10 years have been a journey. I have learned more about myself and how to run a business than I ever thought possible. I can tell you more someday I’m sure. But for now, the most important thing that I have learned is that as a leader listening can never stop.

The key to positive change, whether it be for a client or for the capacity of the organization itself, is just that; listening. The systems and clinical programs surrounding both the organization and the clients should always have the needs of the clients and employees at the forefront–at its heart. I have been lucky enough to have built a leadership team whose hearts emulate the mission of IABA (and people who are easily smarter than me). They also know that listening first and then creating is the foundation to our success. All of their incredible skills are used daily because of this culture and a decade later I sleep with a full heart knowing that hundreds of clients are served in the same capacity they were when I was doing it myself a decade ago. 

Fighting for Basic Needs

To top off my celebration, after a good margarita, I watched “Crip Camp” on Netflix with my partner. It is a documentary about the development of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the incredible leader Judy Heumann. The documentary begins by talking about Camp Jened, which ran between 1951-1977. It was a camp for disabled teenagers that created an environment where they were treated the same as their abled peers. It was a place where they were allowed to be regular teenagers and have their voices heard. It’s heartbreaking but also true that this was not their experience outside of the camp. 

Following her time at the camp, Judy Heumann became an activist who ultimately not only got the ADA enacted but also implemented. In the film, when asked how she did this, her response was simple, “I listened to the stories of my fellow Americans with disabilities without question; if they told me about their experiences I knew it was true.”

That right there is it. I’m a small fish in the big sea of life but if Judy could pass the ADA Act and over 60 years later I could start and successfully run my company by simply listening, then I know that this is a tried and true method of change. I look at our local news each day, as well as my own experiences, with a bruised heart. I am hurt by the loss of humanity in the systems that suppress us. I do not have words to describe my grief for the darling ten-year-old girl who was raped and now is part of the national focus of hate and questioning. This is not the way.

The way to rebuild our world and the systems that support us is not by challenging the experiences of our fellow human beings. The way to build just about anything is to listen. Listen, believe, and do something. Even if that something is just to make your small corner of the world a better place.


Jessie Cooper

Health Insurance & Autism

Health Insurance & Autism

Getting health insurance to cover certain needs can be a pain in many cases. Health insurance and autism, however, are in a category of their own.

The most recent data from the CDC estimates that 1 in 54 children will be diagnosed with autism–a number that seems to be increasing every year. Health insurance plans and policies are changing due to the prevalence of autism, but it can still be hard to get coverage.

Here’s what you need to know.

Getting an Autism Diagnosis

If you are concerned about the development of your child, speak to your pediatrician as soon as possible. Your pediatrician will be able to help you find a suitable professional to conduct an autism evaluation.

A diagnosis needs to be made by a licensed medical professional before insurance will offer any coverage (pediatric psychologist, developmental pediatrician). Many states have laws that require insurance providers to pay for autism evaluations. If you are unsure if your provider covers evaluations, be sure to speak to a representative to make sure.

After a diagnosis, you will get a prescription for services from the doctor, most likely for ABA therapy. You will need prior authorization from your insurance provider to get coverage for a new autism diagnosis/prescription before starting any programs.

Costs of Autism

According to the CDC children with autism have medical expenditures around $4,000-$6,200 more than a neurotypical child. On top of this, paying cash for an intensive inpatient behavioral program (20-40 hours per week) can cost around $50,000 per year.

Costs like these are why it is extremely important to know what your insurance provider will cover and what they won’t. If you currently have a family health insurance policy, it is best practice to call your provider and speak to a representative about your options.

Common Issues with Insurance Coverage & Autism

Many medical conditions and procedures come with ‘hidden strings.’ Autism is no different. Insurance plans often have policies in place that block coverage based on the type of service/therapy being used, the provider, or the health plan itself.

Common issues families face with insurance companies and autism coverage include:

  • Coverage only specifies one type of autism therapy (usually ABA)
  • Specific plans or therapies are denied coverage due to certain insurance plans categorizing some therapy coverage as being for disabilities only (not autism)
  • Out-of-network providers are not covered in any way, even partially (it can be hard for some people in rural areas to find nearby in-network providers)
  • Services not being covered due to a policy classifying them as ‘educational,’ thus not health care

Issues like these (and other related ones) need to be taken up with your insurance provider as soon as possible–preferably before any sessions have started. Also, be sure to talk to any provider you are considering about billing. Misbilling certain services can create an issue with your insurance provider–make sure the healthcare provider you choose knows their billing!

Autism, Health Insurance, & the Law

Each state has different laws and regulations regarding how insurance providers provide coverage for autism. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a great list of these laws, broken down by state.

The laws vary by state, meaning that some people may have trouble getting an insurance provider to cover a specific service–especially those who have recently changed residence. 

ABA Therapy from IABA Consultants

If you have questions regarding autism treatment, education, or plans to use ABA therapy, we are here for you! Our goal is to make sure no family is turned away due to financial constraints. Our therapy team would love to talk to you. Find the location closest to you and give us a call. We’re here for you.

Health Insurance & Autism

The Benefits of Occupational Therapy for Autism

There are many types of therapy that can help with specific symptoms of Autism. One type of therapy that is often underlooked when it comes to treating ASD is occupational therapy (OT). In tandem with a solid ABA program, OT can have extremely beneficial effects on development.

OTs that specialize in helping children with ASD are able to evaluate the needs of a child and put a unique therapy program in place. Let’s take a look at what OTs do when it comes to helping those with autism.

Occupational Therapy & Autism

The first thing to go over is the skills that OTs can help individuals with autism learn. Skills OTs help with include:

  • Cognitive skills
  • Communication
  • Motor skills
  • Sensory skills
  • Social skills

Each of these skills has specific ‘sub-skills’ OTs focus on:

  • Cognitive Skills. Cognitive Skill training focuses on attention, mental stamina, and focus.
  • Communication. Communication training focuses on speech and nonverbal communication.
  • Motor Skills. Motor skill training focuses on balance, posture, and using objects/tools.
  • Sensory Skills. Sensory skill training focuses on responses to sensory stimuli and sensory defensiveness.
  • Social Skills. Social skill training focuses on emotional regulation, interacting with others, and behavior.

How Does Occupational Therapy for Autism Work?

Occupational therapy for autism is different from standard OT for several reasons. OTs with an autism-centered practice work with both clients and their families, making sure plans stick inside and outside of a clinical setting. OTs will help families understand any cognitive-behavioral approaches being used so they can continue at home.

Autism OTs emphasize mental health and well-being in order to make clients feel safe in the environment where therapy takes place. Occupational Therapy for autism often includes teaching self-care routines, so making clients feel safe both in the clinic and at home is essential for success.

Goals of OT for Autism

Like other autism therapy methods, OT focuses on helping a person with autism’s quality of life. The ultimate goal is giving clients as much independence as possible. The areas of life OT therapy for autism focuses on include:

  • Independent communication
  • Working with others
  • Listening
  • Gratification and delayed gratification for completing tasks
  • Expressing feelings and emotions to others
  • Creating and maintaining friendships and other relationships

While the goals of OT may seem to line up with the goals for most autism therapies, OTs are able to combine their occupation therapy training with ABA or cognitive behavioral training to create an occupational program perfectly suited to the needs of a person with autism.

ABA Therapy from IABA Consultants

If you have questions regarding autism treatment, education, or plans to use ABA therapy, we are here for you! Our goal is to make sure no family is turned away due to financial constraints. Our therapy team would love to talk to you. Find the location closest to you and give us a call. We’re here for you.

Health Insurance & Autism

Pregnancy, Acetaminophen, & Autism

Acetaminophen has always been the go-to drug for pain relief during pregnancy. Doctors often prescribed acetaminophen as an OTC drug for mild to moderate headaches due to the low risk associated with pregnancies. The widespread use of acetaminophen for pregnant women in pain, however, may be coming to an end.

Recent research conducted by both university researchers and the US National Institutes of Health links excessive acetaminophen use to autism and ADHD. While the conclusions of the initial studies need additional research for a definitive conclusion, the studies had eye-opening results.

Studying the Effects of Acetaminophen on Pregnancy Risks

A National Institutes of Health-funded study conducted by doctors from Johns Hopkins University called the Boston Birth Cohort Study was used for acetaminophen research. Part of the study examined 24,000 participants, 996 of whom were tested for acetaminophen levels and associated byproducts at birth.

The results of the study on acetaminophen were stunning. Children in the study were checked in on 8.9 years after birth. Of the 996 births, 25.8% had been diagnosed with ADHD, 6.6% had been diagnosed with autism, and 4.2% had been diagnosed with both. This correlates to 2.9X the risk for ADHD and 3.6X the risk of autism (compared to the lowest third of diagnoses in participants).

Researchers in the study noted the results supported earlier research linking acetaminophen to increased autism & ADHD risk during pregnancy. They also noted that future studies will be needed for a definitive conclusion. Some factors not used during the test (health of the mothers, preexisting conditions of the mothers, etc) may also need to be factored in for future research.

Is it Safe to Take Acetaminophen During Pregnancy?

This is definitely a question best left to your doctor. While the answer may be somewhere along the lines of ‘use very sparingly,’ some unanswered questions make this difficult to answer. Researchers and doctors are questioning and studying the impact of acetaminophen and other drugs taken early during pregnancy versus late in pregnancy.

Without conclusive research, there is no ‘recommended dose’ for doctors to prescribe. Talking to your doctor is the only way to get a good answer to this question. Your doctor knows you and your needs better than general internet information ever will. If you are experiencing pregnancy-related pain, please talk to your doctor before taking any OTC medications!

ABA Therapy from IABA Consultants

If you have questions regarding autism treatment, education, or plans to use ABA therapy, we are here for you! Our goal is to make sure no family is turned away due to financial constraints. Our therapy team would love to talk to you. Find the location closest to you and give us a call. We’re here for you.