A form of autism therapy called applied behavior analysis (ABA) was already controversial.
There is a rising rate of autism in children across the U.S., now estimated at 1 in 44 kids.
A recent article from STAT, “Parents and clinicians say private equity’s profit fixation is short-changing kids with autism” by Tara Bannow, details how private equity investment in this therapy has eroded its usefulness and, in some cases, even made it harmful.
A few months ago, Laura Zambrano noticed that her son E, who was getting ABA therapy, started having meltdowns. ABA is supposed to cut down on unwanted behaviors as well as improve language and social skills. E’s provider told his mom he was being manipulative, and to expect even more meltdowns. A red flag that there are some problems with ABA.
Tara Bannow interviewed more than three dozen other families, clinicians, and experts and found a lot more red flags.
Since ABA has been viewed as the gold standard for kids with autism, every state mandates insurance coverage. “But like other pockets of health care, this one has been transformed by investments from private equity firms. Families and clinicians say the financial investors’ fixation on profit has degraded the quality of services kids receive. Read Tara’s investigation.”
Among many problems, instead of delivering highly individualized treatment plans for each patient, cookie-cutter templates are increasingly being applied to children. Parents talked about being pressured to bring their kids to more and more therapy. Parents described a shortage of providers as well as constant turnover among “burned-out” clinicians.
In addition, ABA providers across the country have been billing insurers for more therapy than is possible to deliver. A federal watchdog agency has begun a national investigation into the industry’s practices.
“Families and clinicians who once believed fully in the promise of ABA say the financial investors’ fixation on profit has degraded the quality of services kids receive, turning it into the equivalent of fast food therapy. . . . Some are now questioning whether the therapy is helpful at all, or even harmful…”
For families with autistic children, the article is worth reading. “Private equity is short-changing kids with autism, parents, clinicians say (statnews.com)
 See e.g., https://childmind.org › article › controversy-around-applied-behavior-analysis
https://www.healthline.com › health › aba-therapy
https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com › faq › controversy-surrounding-ab