Stepping Stones Group Snaps Up ABA Provider Center for Behavioral, Educational and Social Therapies

The Stepping Stones Group, an autism and behavioral health provider, announced its plans to buy the Center for Behavioral, Educational and Social Therapies (CBEST) for an undisclosed sum.

Los Angeles-based CBEST is focused on providing applied behavioral analysis (ABA) services. Founded by Shah Bahador in 2002, the center serves students who have neurodevelopmental or emotional disorders, including autism spectrum disorder, as well as those with an intellectual or developmental disability.

Following this acquisition, Bahador will join Stepping Stones as its clinical director and report to the company’s president and chief operating officer of K-12 practice.


Boston-based Stepping Stones currently works across 45 states. Its 8,000 employees serve more than 1,000 clients and 300,00 children annually.

In 2017, the company was acquired by private equity firm Five Arrows Capital Partners. In 2021, reports surfaced that Five Arrows initiated a competitive sale process aimed at private equity buyers. Yet, as of July 2022, the company is still listed as part of the private equity firm’s portfolio.

There is a growing demand for autism services. The CDC reports that roughly 1 in 44 children in the U.S. have autism spectrum disorder. The agency reports that boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.


Additionally, 1 in 6 children are diagnosed with a developmental disability.

Stepping Stones has made a number of acquisitions over the last few years.

In June, Stepping Stones purchased therapeutic behavioral health company HM Therapy for an undisclosed sum. The group has also purchased: The Southcoast Autism Center, EBS Healthcare, Futures and Behavioral Learning Center, New England ABA, Star of CA, and Ador School Solutions.

The CBEST news comes amid a wave of layoffs in the autism sector.

For example, ABA therapy provider 360 Behavioral Health laid off 503 employees in California. Additionally, The Center for Autism & Related Disorders (CARD) closed all 10 of its Oregon Centers, which resulted in 156 layoffs. Venture-funded digital ABA provider Elemy also made cuts.

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