About the Autism Program

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the fastest growing serious, developmental disability, affecting an estimated 1 out of 68 children in the United States. With this number growing at a significant rate, there continues to be an unmet need for services. The Autism Program was developed in an effort to mitigate this need. The program champions excellence in the delivery of services for families of children with autism. Services are provided through grant contracts with local community agencies and organizations that provide applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and other positive behavior support strategies. The program helps improve the quality of life for children on the autism spectrum and their families.

The Autism Program started as a pilot project in fiscal year (FY) 2008 and was intended to extend treatment services, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), to children ages 3 through 8 with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Initially, the pilot served two geographic areas of Texas: Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth. Subsequent increases in funding from the Texas Legislature allowed the program to expand services into Austin, Corpus Christi, El Paso, and San Antonio. In FY 2016, DARS will expand to other Health and Human Services regions.

On September 1, 2014, rules were adopted with two ABA services for children: comprehensive ABA services for children aged 3 through 5 years and focused ABA services for children aged 3 through 15 years. Other changes included parent participation, child attendance, and additional staff training requirements.

In 2015, the 84th Texas Legislature increased funding for the Autism Program. Legislation also required changes to the services provided in the program. The Comprehensive ABA treatment services will be phased out during the 2016-2017 biennium. Comprehensive ABA treatment services will only be available to children enrolled in the comprehensive program as of August 31, 2015. These children will receive comprehensive services until their eligibility expires. Comprehensive ABA treatment services will no longer exist after August 31, 2017. Focused ABA treatment services will continue to be available to all eligible children.

How to Find Services

All services are provided by contractors located in communities around the state. Please call the contractor closest to your area to access services and complete the enrollment process.

Innovative Services Pilot

Texas State University is conducting a pilot project to provide Responsive Interaction Parent Training (RIPT) to the parents of children ages 3 through 15 who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The pilot is the result of a contract DARS awarded to the university in October, 2014.

The initial pilot phase runs from October 15, 2014, through August 31, 2015. The second phase runs from September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2016. DARS will evaluate the service using an independent evaluator.