children2 About ABA in PA

The ABA in PA Initiative is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit advocacy organization made up of parents, industry professionals, and lawmakers dedicated to change the future for all children in Pennsylvania with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by ensuring access to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy via Medical Assistance.

The ABA in PA Initiative aims to bring the autism community together as one united voice to urge Pennsylvania and private sector to listen to our concerns and take immediate action to address the service gap for ABA. It is our firm belief that, working together, we can assure that our children get the care they need, when they need it!


The Better Access to Treatment Act - "BAT ACT "

Our mission within the ABA in PA Initiative has always been: to increase access to qualified professionals, increase access to behavior analytic services and ensure that our ABA providers have the highest level of expertise. 

We are excited and pleased to announce that the ABA in PA Initiative, in conjunction with Rep. Tom Murt and Rep. Tom Mehaffie are putting forth legislation for licensing Behavior Analysts! The Better Access to Treatment Act will differ from the current “Behavior Specialist” licensure created in Act 62. The Act 62 licenses focuses on providing treatment to children with Autism, however the Better Access to Treatment Act will provide help to the millions of individuals that need quality ABA treatment regardless of diagnosis or age. 



Finding ABA in Pennsylvania: The Challenge

Let’s face it, getting access to quality Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in Pennsylvania can be difficult. Although Act 62 was aimed at protecting individuals with autism so that they could access ABA therapy, medical assistance was not recognizing it, nor covering it as a discrete service.  

Over the past year, however, there is progress to report:

- ABA will be reimbursed as a specific treatment modality by Medical Assistance (MA).

- BHRS will also begin to directly address the development of self-care skills (otherwise known as “ADLs” or activities of daily living skills).  

- Pennsylvania is increasing training expectations to ensure that ABA is delivered by qualified individuals.


Although we are pleased by this progress, there are still significant gaps and challenges that make it difficult for families in PA to access quality ABA. The ABA in PA initiative have set our sights on the following needs:


little puzzleAccess to Qualified Professionals. We believe that families have a basic right to treatment by a competent professional. Each tier of the ABA service delivery model should include staff who meet the minimal training suggested by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board ( and the Autism Special Interest Group of the Association for Behavior Analysis International ( Unqualified and underqualified individuals are now providing ABA. The state developed a Behavior Specialist License which increased the number of available Master’s level clinicians (referred to as “BSC”)  but did not ensure that those who hold this license are properly trained to be an ABA therapist.  This is not just irresponsible, it's unethical.  Holding this license might provide you with an edge over someone who does not hold this license but by no means affords you the expertise, training or experience to provide ABA therapy and we want the public to know and understand this.  We want Pennsylvania to have enough ABA therapists but lowering standards is not the way to do it.  Would you want your child’s surgery done by a general pediatrician because there wasn’t a surgeon closeby?  Neither would we!


We need to attract highly-qualified individuals to Pennsylvania, and encourage those already practicing under state regulations to stay here. Lowering the qualifications doesn't just discourage highly trained professionals (i.e. BCBAs, BCaBAs) from participating in state-funded programs, it pushes them away, and further opens the door for “bad therapy” hiding under the guise of ABA and harming those the law is meant to help.


little puzzleAccess to ABA. Pennsylvania is made up of many rural communities. Encouraging professionals to seek out and service these underserved populations is the responsibility of any state-funded program. Individuals and their families sitting on waiting lists not only wastes precious time during which opportunities for growth are lost, it threatens that individual's chance for future independence. We cannot both acknowledge an individual's need for service while also denying them access to those who can help them.  We believe that incentives can help providers from more populated areas work in underserved areas to meet that need.  If someone wants to earn their BCBA but can’t afford to pay for the degree, why not offer loan forgiveness if that person agrees to work in an underserved community for a period of time?  A win - win for everyone!



little puzzleContinuing Education. Pennsylvania MA-funded ABA professionals need access to ongoing training by qualified professionals. PennABA, ABAI, APBA and the National Autism Conference offer quality training. However, MA funded ABA professionals need regular access to these training opportunities.  Large caseloads and high billing expectations put professional development on the back burner which leads to staff burnout and stagnant therapeutic practices. It leads to valuing quantity over quality, and turns mental health into a commodity to be traded.  We cannot allow this to happen.  The expertise of our ABA colleagues needs to be valued, their continuing education protected and the quality and integrity of program delivery enforced.



Join us in continuing down the path to quality, accessible ABA for all PA families. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to see how you can help us make a difference.



What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a science in which processes are systematically applied to improve socially significant behavior to a meaningful degree. An ABA program is a systematic teaching approach that involves breaking skills down into small, easy-to-learn steps. Praise or other rewards are used to motivate the child, and progress is continuously measured so the teaching program can be adapted as needed. ABA is endorsed for autism by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Surgeon General.ABA is widely recognized as the single most effective treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder and the only treatment shown to lead to significant, lasting improvements in the lives of individuals with autism.

Studies have shown that children with autism who participated in intensive ABA programs showed significant improvements in IQ, language skills, and academic performance. Some children in these studies were able to move successfully to mainstream public school classes, where they can learn alongside typically developing peers.

ABA based treatment strategies maximize the learning potential of persons with ASD, and are flexible, individualized and dynamic.


How ABA Works

  • Skills are broken down into a series of manageable steps that are easier to learn

  • Individuals are provided multiple opportunities to practice and perfect each step of the skill

  • Success is rewarded with positive reinforcement, providing a high motivation for improvement

  • Goals are targeted to meet the needs of the individual

  • Progress is tracked through systematic collection and evaluation of data

  • Skills are taught with an eye toward their use and integration into daily life


With ABA, every child can benefit by learning new skills and reducing problem behaviors