Advocates Push for Coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis As Autism Treatment

So far, seven states have passed laws mandating that insurance companies provide coverage for applied behavior therapy for children with autism, according to the advocacy group Autism Speaks. Coverage for the treatment can save families tens of thousands of dollars but its efficacy is disputed.

Applied behavior therapy uses a series of rewards to encourage children with autism to make good choices and adapt new skills. The treatment can be very expensive, running to upwards of $50,000 a year.

A recent Associated Press article highlights the dramatic difference in costs for a family living in one state, Indiana, that has passed a law requiring coverage, compared to a family living in Washington, a state without such a law. In Indiana, where insurance covers the majority of costs, a family winds up paying about $3,000 a year in co-pays and deductibles for therapy for their 11-year-old daughter. But in Washington, a family with a 12-year-old receiving the same type of therapy is forced to pay more than $50,000 a year.

Opinions differ on the actual long-term effects of applied behavior therapy, especially in older children. The article calls the scientific evidence of positive gains "mixed"; several studies have indicated positive results for some children, while other studies have shown no additional improvement when applied behavioral therapy is used in conjunction with other techniques. Autism Speaks, which is pushing for insurance coverage of applied behavioral therapy, contends that the efficacy of the approach "has been established repeatedly."

To read the entire Associated Press article, along with links to other articles about autism, click here.

For Autism Speaks' Web site with up-to-date information on the group's efforts, click here. Article Last Modified: 12/01/2008