Intensity is typically measured in terms of number of hours per week of direct treatment. Intensity often determines whether the treatment falls into the category of either Focused or Comprehensive.
Focused ABA Treatment
Focused ABA generally ranges from 10-25 hours per week of direct treatment (plus direct and indirect supervision and caregiver training). However, certain programs for severe destructive behavior may require more than 25 hours per week of direct therapy (for example, day treatment or inpatient program for severe self-injurious behavior).
Comprehensive ABA Treatment
Treatment often involves an intensity level of 30-40 hours of 1:1 direct treatment to the client per week, not including caregiver training, supervision, and other needed services. However, very young children may start with a few hours of therapy per day with the goal of increasing the intensity of therapy as their ability to tolerate and participate permits. Treatment hours are subsequently increased or decreased based on the client’s response to treatment and current needs. Hours may be increased to more efficiently reach treatment goals. Decreases in hours of therapy per week typically occur when a client has met a majority of the treatment goals and is moving toward discharge.
Although the recommended number of hours of therapy may seem high, this is based on research findings regarding the intensity required to produce good outcomes. It should also be noted that time spent away from therapy may result in the individual falling further behind typical developmental trajectories. Such delays will likely result in increased costs and greater dependence on more intensive services across their life span.
Source: “Applied Behavior Analysis Treatment of Autism Disorder: Practice Guidelines for funders and managers.” BACB 2014