ABA Therapy for Your 2-Year-Old: All You Need to Know

By Natalie Schad | 18 June, 2024
Abacus Therapies - ABA Therapy for Two year Old

As a parent of an autistic toddler, you’ve likely read about the numerous treatments available nowadays, including ABA therapy. Regarded as a highly effective, evidence-based approach to autism with decades of research to back it up, it is particularly beneficial for toddlers with ASD.

In this article, we’ll try to answer all your questions about ABA therapy for a 2yearold and give you a better insight into Abacus Therapies ABA services. You’ll learn about the benefits of this treatment, the techniques it involves, and all the ways it can help your child. You’ll also find valuable information about the cost of the treatment and insurance options.  

So, let’s get started!

ABA Therapy Explained

Short for applied behavior analysis, ABA therapy is an approach to autism treatment rooted in behaviorism and positive reinforcement as its basic principle. As part of the therapy, a person is rewarded for each action they complete or skill they use. The ultimate goal is to help the person by encouraging them to repeat this action or continue using this skill in the future.

Established in the 1960s, ABA therapy has evolved over the years to reflect the increased understanding of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While some basic rules still apply, modern ABA therapy is very flexible, with treatments and methods tailored to each person’s specific needs.

Although a few smaller studies have proven its effectiveness in adults, thus suggesting ABA therapy doesn’t have an age limit, it is primarily used to treat autistic children. Numerous studies have shown that ABA therapy for children with ASD can result in improved language development, better intellectual functioning, and easier acquisition of daily life skills.

ABA Therapy at 2 Years Old: Is It Too Early?

ABA therapy is sometimes described as very frequent, so you may wonder if your child is too young for this program at the age of 2. However, research has shown (as well as our practice) that an early intervention — ideally before the child turns 3 —  could significantly increase the chance of a positive outcome.

For this reason, we recommend starting treatment as soon as the child receives a formal ASD diagnosis. Thanks to modern diagnostic tools, autism can usually be detected in children as young as 18 months of age — sometimes even younger. A diagnosis received by age 2 is considered reliable, which means it is an optimal age for a child to start ABA therapy.

What Does ABA Therapy for a 2YearOld Look Like?

As mentioned, ABA therapy is heavily personalized and caters to each child’s specific needs and developmental goals. ABA therapy sessions for toddlers usually last 2–5 hours a day. The Council of Autism Service Providers recommends 30–40 hours of therapy per week for the best possible outcomes, but the program’s intensity will vary based on the child’s improvement plan. This maximum number of sessions is not that often seen in practice.

The environment can also be chosen depending on the child’s individual needs. Based on the location where the sessions take place, the most common types of ABA therapy include:

  • In-home ABA therapy
  • School-based ABA therapy
  • Center-based ABA therapy

At Abacus Therapies, we offer school-based and in-home ABA therapy in all our locations in Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia. Soon, we’ll be offering center-based ABA therapy in Charlotte, North Carolina, too. Our center there will also group ABA therapy.

At Abacus Therapies, ABA therapy is run by a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA), a professional equipped to assess the child’s condition and devise an improvement plan to help the child develop the necessary skills and behaviors. The plan is implemented by a registered behavior technician (RBT), who chooses the teaching techniques and activities to achieve the designated goals.

To get to know our Abacus Therapies team, you can give us a call, or take a look at the profiles of a couple of our highly experienced BCBAs and RBTs: Natalie Schad, Madeline Smith, and Sara Galam.

Common ABA Techniques for Toddlers

Some of the ABA techniques we commonly use when working with toddlers include:

  • Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)
  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
  • Antecedent-Based Interventions (ABI)
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

Because 2-year-olds are only starting their life journey and have a limited grasp of how things work, all these techniques involve an element of play. In addition, our therapists usually recommend some activities for autistic kids that parents can implement at home. These typically include storytelling, puzzle assembly, treasure hunts, and other activities that involve the whole family.

The parents’ role doesn’t end there, as the BCBA will work closely with them throughout the process to better understand the child’s needs and progress. Parents are encouraged to attend the sessions and observe our BCBA at work. That way, you can learn how to reinforce the newly learned skills and behaviors and encourage your child to keep using them at home.

Basic ABA Goals for a 2YearOld

Due to the many proven benefits of ABA therapy, it is one of the most popular treatment options for autistic children. The goal of the program is to help the child acquire the skills and develop behaviors they need in everyday life, thus enabling them to find their place in the world. ABA therapy aims to provide the child with the tools for well-being, success, and autonomy in life.

To achieve all this, BCBAs at Abacus Therapies will devise programs that focus on the following goals:

  • Developing communication skills
  • Behavioral improvements
  • Acquiring basic life skills
  • Encouraging autonomy

Developing Communication Skills

Most toddlers with ASD struggle to express their thoughts, which often limits their interactions with others. ABA therapy aims to address this problem by breaking down communication into smaller, teachable steps. 

Over the course of the treatment, toddlers will gradually learn to express their emotions and needs, while also acquiring skills to engage in meaningful conversations with others.

Behavioral Improvements

Aggression, tantrums, and other challenging behaviors are common in 2-year-olds with ASD. ABA therapy aims to identify the causes of these behaviors and implement techniques that will replace them with other, more desirable behaviors. Reinforcing these positive behaviors will help the child adopt them as the default, thus allowing them to manage their reactions and emotions more successfully.

Acquiring Basic Life Skills

Positive reinforcement and discrete trial training can help the child build essential life skills, like following instructions, potty training, and early-life self-care routines. This gives them a solid foundation to build upon as they grow up.

Encouraging Autonomy

The ultimate goal of ABA therapy is to enable the child to eventually live an autonomous life, without the need for round-the-clock care. This is achieved by teaching them basic life skills like daily routines and self-care, boosting their self-esteem, and encouraging them to carry out various tasks independently.

It’s important to note that ABA therapy is a long-term treatment that requires dedication and patience from both the child and their parents.  

The Cost of ABA Therapy for a TwoYearOld

ABA therapy can last for several years, so the expenses can add up over time. Depending on the location and the program’s intensity, the cost of ABA therapy may be up to $6,000 per week at some ABA therapy centers.

Thankfully, Medicaid and most private insurers recognize ABA therapy as an essential treatment and provide coverage for it. In some cases, the coverage is state-regulated and thus varies by state. For example, the state-mandated coverage for ABA therapy in Florida totals $36,000 per year, while the coverage for ABA therapy in North Carolina is capped at $40,000 annually.

Certain policies, including self-funded insurance plans, are not subject to state laws. 

At Abacus Therapies, we recommend calling your plan administrator to see if ABA therapy coverage is provided under your current plan. Our team can also provide helpful advice on the matter as we deal with different insurance providers.

The Final Word

The importance of early intervention in ASD cannot be overstated. Starting ABA therapy as soon as your 2-year-old is diagnosed with autism can help them accomplish the treatment goals and set them up for a successful, productive, independent life.

With Abacus Therapies, you’ll never be alone on this journey. Our team of highly qualified professionals with years of experience is here to support and guide you through the process. Request a free consultation, and we’ll meet and devise a treatment plan best suited to your child’s needs to help them lead a happy and fulfilled life.


Why would a child need ABA therapy?

An autistic child would need ABA therapy to develop basic communication and social skills, learn how to express their emotions and react to various everyday situations in a positive way, and acquire the necessary tools to achieve academic success and autonomy later in life.

Can autism be treated at 2 years old?

Yes, autism can be treated at 2 years old. Medical professionals can detect autism in children as young as 18 months of age. A diagnosis received by the age of 2 is considered reliable, thus allowing for the treatment to start immediately.

What is the best age to start ABA therapy?

Based on a vast body of research, experts recommend starting ABA therapy as soon as the child receives a formal autism diagnosis. Numerous studies have shown that early intervention results in better outcomes, so starting the treatment before the age of 3 would be optimal.