Developmental Pediatrics and Autism

Behavioral Interventions

Addressing difficult behaviors

When children with a developmental and/or behavioral condition exhibit frequent difficult behaviors, it can be disruptive for the whole family. You have many options for addressing and managing these behaviors, some directed toward the child and some specifically for the parents or caregivers.

Behavioral therapy/counseling can be helpful for children with a variety of diagnoses. Many types of therapies are available for children of various ages and developmental levels. It’s important to know which therapies are most effective for your child’s specific needs, so that you spend your time and money on the most effective option for your family.

Parent management training (PMT)/behavioral parent training

PMT is the most effective therapy for young children (under 12) with disruptive behaviors as well as older children with delays in their development. PMT helps caregivers learn strategies for encouraging positive behaviors, while reducing disruptive behaviors such as tantrums and aggression.

The ideas behind PMT are simple, but not always easy to follow, especially when a child is in the middle of a meltdown and the caregiver is at their wits’ end. Caregivers often know basic PMT strategies already but struggle to modify or implement those strategies in a way that’s effective for their child.

PMT can be offered in individual or group settings and may be available both in person and online. PMT requires full parent/caregiver participation.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is another type of behavioral intervention for children and adolescents. To actively participate in CBT, children must be developmentally 6–8 years of age or older. CBT is evidence-based to treat anxiety and depression and can also be effective in working on emotional regulation, coping, anger management and other important skills. CBT can be done virtually or in person.

These sites may be helpful in locating a mental health provider for your child. We recommend contacting your insurance company for a list of in-network providers. The local mental health authority for your county can also provide information regarding services in your area.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

ABA is an evidence-based intervention for many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Depending on your child’s needs, ABA may be provided on a part- or full-time basis that may consist of up to 40 hours a week of therapy. ABA is most often provided in one-to-one sessions but may be provided in a group setting as well.

In most cases, your child must have an established diagnosis of ASD to obtain ABA services. ABA centers may also require a prescription or referral for ABA therapy from your child’s medical provider.

Insurance coverage for ABA therapy is greatly dependent on your individual plan. While ABA is known to be an effective behavioral intervention for children with a variety of diagnoses, most insurance plans will only cover this type of intervention for children with autism.

As of Feb. 1, 2022, ABA is now a covered benefit under Medicaid in Texas. While this is now a covered service, there may be limited providers in your area currently accepting patients under Medicaid at this time. We recommend contacting your insurance company to obtain a list of in-network ABA providers in your area.

Please note that The Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) does not currently cover ABA in Texas.

For more information on ABA therapy or for help locating a provider, please visit:

Virtual parent-directed treatment (autism)

Parent-directed treatment (PDT) is a type of intervention available for families of children diagnosed with ASD. PDT programs are most commonly offered virtually, for free, through organizations and universities all over the state. PDT is a type of intervention that works to teach caregivers ABA strategies that can be used at home. PDT programs are not full-time programs, so most commonly focus on specific skills, such as communication and/or behavior management.