If you are trying to decide between traditional school and ABA therapy we can help you understand the similarities and differences. No choice is a bad choice, but one option may better fit your child’s needs! If choosing an ABA approach, remember, it can be a steppingstone prior to your child starting traditional school. 

Can ABA Replace Traditional Preschool?

Yes! In some cases, ABA therapy can be a replacement for a traditional school setting or in others, ABA could be the stepping-stone to a school setting. Many ABA programs work with children to teach them the necessary skills for a successful transition to a more traditional school environment. Based on your child’s needs related to their autism diagnosis, an ABA program may be an effective preparation course for a traditional school. Once hitting milestones in an ABA program, it is important for you to have conversations with your child’s clinical staff about whether your child would benefit from moving into a school program.

Some skills ABA therapy can build for this transition include:

      • Enhance a child’s ability to learn in a group setting and retain information.
      • Encourage participation in a school-like setting (answering questions or focusing on lessons)
      • Decrease negative or disruptive behavior
      • Understand the needs of the school structure (sitting still in a classroom or switching from class to class)
      • Communication with teachers, school staff, and other students

      Figuring Out Your Child’s Needs

      Since every ASD diagnosis is different, the individual needs of a child are important to consider when deciding between a school program and ABA therapy. For example, a child with significant problematic behaviors, may interfere with their own learning in the classroom setting, so that child may be a better fit for ABA therapy. Along with behavior, there are many factors to consider when making this decision:


          • Social Interaction Challenges – Children with autism may not have the skills to socialize with others or may not know how to interact effectively with people. If so, your child may require more individualized attention and a curriculum for developing socialization skills such as in an ABA Program. As a parent look into the curriculum and the student-to-teacher ratio of each option to determine the best fit for your child’s needs.
          • Academic Differences – Before entering a classroom setting for academic learning, children with autism may need to enhance their foundational skills. These skills include expressive labeling, matching, functions, sequencing, general knowledge and reasoning, observational learning, and more. An individualized approach versus a classroom wide curriculum may be more effective for your child to master these skills.
          • Behaviors, Eating, and Potty Training – A child with individual behavior issues, such as aggressiveness or eating difficulties, may need more attention. Some strategies to develop coping skills, positive reinforcement surrounding eating, and potty-training encouragement are more easily supported by individualized attention.


        When in a traditional school environment, schoolteachers may not be properly trained to work with children on the spectrum. Because of this, they may be unable to determine the effectiveness of their lesson plan, so according to the Indiana University School of Medicine, parents and any support staff should observe the child’s progress closely to ensure the child is benefiting from that environment. Whether your child is a better fit for ABA Therapy or traditional school, consistent communication is encouraged to ensure your child is receiving the maximum support!

          How Much Support Does Your Child Need?

          Both a school environment and ABA Therapy have their own benefits, so deciding between traditional school and an ABA therapy program for your child should be dictated by our child’s unique needs. A lot of the decision may be determined by the amount of support your child needs and the curriculum offered.

          If your child needs a low student to staff ratio, ABA therapy offers staff that is dedicated to working with one child at a time! Does you child need a curriculum focused on communication, motor, and social skills? ABA therapy focuses on those skillsets. If your child would benefit from individualized behavior plans and prompts versus a classroom-wide prompting structure, ABA therapy provides personalized lesson plans for every child! To see more of a summary on the differences between traditional school and ABA therapy agendas, refer to the graphic included on the top of this blog page.

            In the end no choice is a bad choice, but one option may better fit your child’s needs!  If you have any questions about your decision, please reach out to our Helping Hands Family team! We would be happy to answer any questions you may have about this important decision.