Lots of money in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and the effect on ethical practitioners and client outcomes


“… We will … equip ABA agency owners with the additional knowledge and tools to make the best informed and well-balanced decision to determine the put option to a private equity firm and the impact.” on their employees and, ultimately, on their clients’ bottom line. – Karen Chung, CEO of Special Learning, Inc.

Special Learning, Inc. today released its full lineup of its long-awaited live webinar series: Big Money in ABA which kicked off on January 29, 2020 with the introductory session titled “Big Money in ABA Series – Module 1 : Who’s buying? Who sell ? Who wins? Who loses ?. This 2 hour session delved into PE’s nascent desire to enter and exit the autism industry, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services.

During this presentation, Special Learning, Inc and Special Guest, Dr. Jon Bailey, BCBA-D, began providing the equivalent of 2 years of data collected on acquisition and exit rates in the ABA space; however, this has only scratched the surface of the information gathered over the past 24 months. From March 25, 2020, the series will continue with “Data Review” and progress for 5 consecutive months ending with the final session “Big Money in ABA Series – Module 5: The Legacy of PE Involvement”. This series will uncover the truth: “the good, the bad and the ugly” about Big Money in ABA on the autism industry, professionals (BCBA, RBT and frontline staff) and ultimately the impact of client results to include people with Autism and related disorders.


Private Equity activity has been booming over the past decade in the autism industry. It makes perfect business sense for some private equity firms to exit within 5 years with 10 to 15 times their initial investment. This, combined with the 50 US states mandating services for people with autism as of 2019, PE activity doesn’t appear to be slowing down either.

In the first quarter of 2020:

1.55 private equity firms have invested in ABA service providers

2. There were 20 ABA “platform” companies created

3. There were 10 PE exits to larger PE companies

4. Three (3) platform companies supported by Pe have made several releases

5. 50% + of the 23 for-profit MEGA ABA branches (1,000 to 5,000 employees) are owned or supported by private equity firms


Through more than 1,000 hours of in-depth research over the past 2 years, this series, Special Learning, Inc. and subject matter experts will unveil the impact of PE activity on the autism industry and l ‘ABA. This series will uncover which PE firms and platform companies are playing in the autism space, what ideal business target would be for acquisition, the truth of what happens to an agency owner and their employees. employees immediately after the acquisition of PE and 2/3/5 years after the acquisition and, ultimately, how does this impact the clients these agencies serve and the level of success of the results of ABA therapy for the client. Karen Chung, CEO and Founder of Special Learning Inc, revealed that her solution to this complicated PE business is not to treat PE as the ‘bad guy’ but to ‘deliver the information gathered, share it through a accessible and interactive education and empower ABA. agency owners with the additional knowledge and tools to make the best informed and well-balanced decision to determine their put option to a private equity firm and the impact on their employees and ultimately on the results of their clients. Karen continued and explained how the series will cover the following topics to equip ABA agency owners with this thought leadership:

  • Module 1: Big Money in ABA: who is buying? Who sell ? Who wins? Who loses ? (CHECKED IN)
  • Module 2: Private equity consolidation: on a positive note … (LIVE 04/29/2020)
  • Module 3: The roll-up game: How can independent ABA agencies compete ethically? (LIVE 05/20/2020)
  • Module 4: Best Practices and Standards: Driving for Quality Results AND Business Value (LIVE 6/17/2020)
  • Module 5: The Legacy of PE Involvement in ABA: Impact on Clients, Clinicians and the Behavior Analysis Field (LIVE 07/15/2020)

For more information on Big Money in ABA Series, visit the Special Learning, Inc website at https://www.special-learning.com.

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