Private Equity in Autism Services: Big Money in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and the Effect on Ethical Practitioners and Client Outcomes

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Special Learning, Inc., the leading global provider of comprehensive digital autism and special needs solutions including training, educational materials and virtual consulting, today announced the official release of their critically acclaimed Big Money in ABA live webinar series to unpack all the PE and M&A activity in the Autism Services field and identify the impact of such activities on successful client outcomes.

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“…We will...empower ABA agency owners with the knowledge and supplemental tools to make the best and well-rounded informed decision to determine the option to sell to a PE firm and the impact on their employees and ultimately their client outcomes.” - Karen Chung, CEO at Special Learning, Inc.

Special Learning, Inc. released today their full line-up of their long-awaited Live Webinar Series: Big Money in ABA which premiered on January 29th, 2020 with the introductory session called “Big Money in ABA Series- Module 1: Who’s Buying? Who’s Selling? Who’s Winning? Who’s Losing?.” This 2-hour session dove into the emerging desire for PE 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 to deliver 2-years’ worth of data collected on the rates of acquisition and exits in the ABA space; however, this only scratched the surface of information that was collected over the past 24 months. Starting on March 25, 2020, the series will continue with “Review of the Data” 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, the professionals (BCBAs, RBTs and front-line staff) and ultimately the impact of client outcomes to include persons with Autism and related disorders.

WHAT THE DATA REVEALS THUS FAR FOR PE ACQUISITIONS AND EXITS

Private Equity activity has been in full bloom over the past decade in the Autism Industry. It makes perfect business sense when some PE firms are exiting within 5 years with 10-15x of their initial investment. This combined with all 50 U.S. states mandating services for persons with Autism as of 2019, the PE activity does not seem to be slowing down either.

As of the Q1 2020:
1. 55 Private Equity firms have invested in ABA service Providers
2. There have been 20 ABA “Platform” Companies Created
3. There have been 10 PE exits to larger PE firms
4. Three (3) Pe-backed Platform companies have realized multiple exits
5. 50%+ of the 23 for-profit MEGA ABA agencies (1,000- 5,000 employees) are owned or backed by PE firms

THE SOLUTION FOR ABA AGENCY OWNERS, PRACTITIONERS, AND PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH AUTISM

Through the 1,000+ hours of extensive research over the past 2 years, this series, Special Learning, Inc. and Subject Matter Experts will unveil the impact of the PE activity on the Autism Industry and ABA. This series will unveil which PE firms and platform companies are playing in the Autism Space, what an ideal company target would be for acquisition, the truth about what happens to an agency owner and their employees immediate following PE acquisition and 2/3/5 years post acquisition, and ultimately how does this impact clients these agencies serves and the client’s successful level of outcomes from the ABA therapy. Karen Chung, CEO and founder of Special Learning Inc, divulged that he solution to this convoluted PE activity is not to address PE as the “bad guy” but to “provide the gathered information, share it through accessible and interactive education, and empower ABA agency owners with the knowledge and supplemental tools to make the best and well-rounded informed decision to determine their option to sell to a PE firm and the impact on their employees and ultimately their client outcomes.” Karen continued and mapped out how the series will cover the following topics to equip ABA agency owners with this thought-leadership:

  • Module 1: Big Money in ABA: Who’s Buying? Who’s Selling? Who’s Winning? Who’s Losing? (RECORDED)
  • Module 2: Private Equity Consolidation: On a Positive Note... (LIVE 4/29/2020)
  • Module 3: The Roll-up Game: How Can Independent ABA Agencies Compete Ethically? (LIVE 5/20/2020)
  • Module 4: Best Practices and Standards: Driving for Quality Outcomes AND Enterprise Value (LIVE 6/17/2020)
  • Module 5: The Legacy of PE Involvement in ABA: Impact to Clients, Clinicians, and the Field of Behavior Analysis (LIVE 7/15/2020)

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

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David P. Diana, MA, LPC
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