ABA in Schools


Depending on individual’s needs, both insurance-funded and school-funded ABA services can be provided in school. Public schools are required to make appropriate accommodations for individuals with special needs, including individuals affected by autism spectrum disorder. On this page, we provide information about the laws that protect your individual’s access to a public education. To find out more about insurance-funded services in an educational setting, click here.


The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates that eligible individuals with disabilities have available to them special education and related services designed to address their unique and individual needs. IDEA has six principles that provide the framework around which special education services are designed and provided to students with disabilities. These principles include;

  • Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE);
  • Appropriate Evaluation;
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP);
  • Least Restrictive Environment;
  • Parent and Student Participation in Decision Making; and
  • Procedural Safeguards.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE):

Under both state and federal law, your individual is entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Therefore, if it is established that the system of public education available to your individual is not “appropriate” for his or her needs, it may be possible to secure funding from your individual’s school for an ABA program that may be more appropriate to meet the educational needs of your individual.

If individual already qualifies for special education services and has a classroom placement and/or has been receiving special services, you may request a change in services and/or placement. In other words, you may request that the district fund an ABA program. In order to request such funding, you must ask your district to hold an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. All such requests should be made in writing. If you are approaching your school district for the first time, its staff will want to ascertain the eligibility of individual for special education services and an assessment will be scheduled. Following the assessment, an IEP meeting will be arranged to discuss the results of the evaluation and propose goals and objectives. Once goals and objectives are agreed upon, placement and services will be offered. Once again, if you have questions about the appropriateness of the offer, you may want to consult with an ABA professional who specializes in such treatment. Some school districts provide ABA programs that may be able to meet your individual’s needs.

Appropriate is the critical term in FAPE. The education that an individual with disabilities (including a individual with autism) receives needs to address his or her specific and individual educational needs. As such, what is appropriate for one student may not be appropriate for another. Determining what is appropriate for each student involves several processes. First, an individualized evaluation is conducted. The purpose of the evaluation is to identify the student’s areas of strengths and weaknesses in as much detail as possible. The next step is for the IEP team to discuss and develop an IEP for the student. The IEP team generates and identifies appropriate goals and objectives for the student to work on throughout the year. Furthermore, placement and the type of special education and related services appropriate for the student are identified. This decision is made with the parents/caregivers and is based on the goals and objectives that have been developed, as well as the individual’s individual needs. In addition to specifying an appropriate placement, the team must identify and provide the supplementary aids and services in order for the individual to succeed in the given educational setting.

Individualized Education Program (IEP):

According to the US Department of Education, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) refers to “a written statement for each individual with a disability that is developed, written and, as appropriate, revised at least once per year.” Each individual’s IEP contains statements as to the following;

  • The individual’s present levels of educational performance, including how the individual’s disability affects his or her involvement in the general curriculum;
  • Measurable annual goals, including benchmarks or short-term objectives;
  • The special education and related services and supplementary aids and services to be provided;
  • The program modifications or supports to be provided to the individual;
  • An explanation of the extent to which the individual will not participate with nondisabled students in the regular class and in extracurricular and nonacademic activities;
  • Any individual modifications made in the administration of State and District-wide assessments;
  • The projected date for the beginning of services, and the anticipated frequency, location, and duration of those services; and
  • How the individual’s progress toward the annual goals will be measured and how the parents will be kept regularly informed of that progress.


The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) is determined based upon each individual’s individual needs. The law’s presumption is that the student should be educated in the regular classroom with nondisabled individuals, with supplementary aids and services provided as necessary to enable the student to succeed in that setting. A student’s placement in the general education classroom is the first option the IEP team must consider. If it is determined that a student cannot be educated in the general education classroom, even when supplementary aids and services are provided, an alternative placement must be considered. As such, schools are required to ensure that a continuum of alternative placements is available. These may include, but are not limited to, special classes, special schools, or home instruction.


Schools are required to involve each individual’s parent(s) in the development of the individual’s IEP. Parents must be notified and must give consent, and parental input must be solicited and considered. Students may be members of the IEP team and participate to the extent possible.


Three main components of IDEA provide procedural safeguards:

  • To protect the rights of individuals with disabilities and their parents;
  • To ensure that the individuals and their parents are provided with the information needed to make decisions about the provision of FAPE; and
  • To have procedures and mechanisms in place to resolve disagreements between parties.