At a time when autism diagnoses are soaring nationwide, many parents and professionals insist that ABA therapy is the best way to help these children live normal lives.
Eric Larsson, a Minneapolis psychologist and leading advocate, says ABA is more than just a treatment - it's a way to rescue children "from the ravages of autism." He tells parents that nearly half of children can recover if they start ABA soon enough.
"They're coming to us because they want to cure their child," he said. "Just like you or I would do if we had cancer."
But other autism experts say the benefits of ABA treatment have been blown out of proportion. They say there is scarce evidence that it's really better than less costly alternatives.
"A lot of claims out there are inflated," said Barbara Luskin, a psychologist with the Autism Society of Minnesota. "Autism is a difference in the way your brain is. You're not going to cure it."
This year, for the third year in a row, the Minnesota Legislature is debating whether to require the state's health insurance plans to cover ABA treatment for autism, a speech and behavior disorder that is said to affect 1 in 110 children nationally.
More than 20 states have adopted such mandates since 2007, says Lorri Unumb of Autism Speaks, a national advocacy group.
Ultimately, she hopes it will become the law of the land as part of national health reform.