Waitlist management is a growing challenge in the ABA industry. With 1 in 36 children being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), there is a rapidly growing need for care. While the number of behavior analysts and behavior technicians is rising each year, the growth has not kept pace with the demand.


In one study, roughly 75% of caregivers reported spending time on a waitlist for ABA services. The average waiting time was 5.5 months. The time spent waiting can vary significantly based on location. In areas with fewer providers, the waitlists can be significantly longer.


While ABA waitlists are oftentimes inevitable, there are ways to better manage your organization’s waitlist to improve access to care and increase revenue. Regularly analyzing waitlist data to assess realistic waiting times, clear and ongoing communication with waitlisted families, and using practice management software for managing waitlists can greatly improve the flow of your waitlist and maintain families satisfaction.

mother and child at ABA center

Growing waitlists

With increased awareness of autism and better diagnostic processes, an increased demand for ABA services has occurred. However, this increased demand does not match the availability of current ABA practitioners. Thus, most practices have lengthy waitlists for children to receive services.


Families seeking ABA services have likely already experienced some waiting time in obtaining a diagnosis. Oftentimes, to receive a diagnostic evaluation, families have to wait for several months. Finally receiving a diagnosis may come with a sense of validation and relief. That feeling is often fleeting as they learn that support is not readily available upon obtaining that diagnosis.


There are things an organization can do to support the families on their waitlist. Determining accurate and realistic waitlist times and communicating these to waitlisted families can improve the family’s satisfaction and likelihood of waiting for a spot in your agency. By regularly analyzing your waitlist data–the rate of fade out, updates to staff availability, and provider capacity, you can determine a more accurate timeline for waitlisted families.

Turning away potential clients

Sometimes providers have to make the difficult decision to turn away potential clients due to overwhelmingly lengthy waitlists. This is common with families who are seeking a low number of hours and those who only have evening availability. Providers tend to prioritize potential clients who have daytime availability, as daytime hours can be significantly easier to staff.


Open communication is key when turning away potential clients. Be honest when informing them of your waitlist capacity. Providing referrals to other providers and additional resources can be a great help to families during this time as well.

Clients dropping off the waitlist to go to other providers

Clients dropping off the waitlist to go to other providers

The children on your waitlist may become clients of yours in the future, as you increase capacity. However, the reality is that many of those children may drop off the waitlist. Early intervention is key for the best possible outcomes. Therefore, it is common for families to go on multiple waitlists to find the provider that can serve them the fastest. If other providers in your area are able to onboard those children sooner, then it is likely that they will remove their names from your waitlist and choose the other provider.


This is again where open and ongoing communication is necessary. If a family is placed on a 6-9 month waitlist, then months go by without hearing a word, they may feel that your organization does not value open communication, which could lead to other concerns resulting in them choosing another provider. Therefore, it is critical that waitlisted families receive updates regarding where they stand on the waitlist. Communicate with waitlisted families via regular check-ins to inform them of updated timelines and provide support or additional resources if possible. Regular check-ins are also vital for the provider to update the waitlist if they find that families are no longer in need of services.

Using a separate system/manual process

When waitlists are managed through inefficient manual processes, separate from other aspects of your business, increased challenges arise. Many providers use spreadsheets which can increase the potential for user error, such as the accidental deletion of vital information.


Implementing waitlists into practice management software can reduce the risk of error, increase efficiency, and reduce potential HIPAA violations. A well-organized intake system can ensure that children are moving through the process to receive services sooner than they may have otherwise. Using software can also streamline the process from waitlist to active client, reducing unnecessary administrative tasks.


Streamline waitlist management with CentralReach

Using CentralReach’s best-in-class tools to streamline and simplify intake means ditching paper forms to decrease time-consuming tasks like playing phone tag with clients to fill in missing or incomplete fields. Then, allow electronic forms to route data directly into the system to a designated staff member to obtain and track. Learn more about CentralReach’s solutions to streamline waitlist management.