ABA Therapy for a 6-Year-Old with Autism: Full Guide

By Natalie Schad | 17 June, 2024
Abacus Therapies - ABA Therapy for 6 year old

In this article, we’ll provide all the information you need to know about ABA therapy for a 6yearold with autism. We’ll discuss the general benefits of this treatment, explain what the program involves, and highlight its most common goals. And because many parents inquire about the cost of the treatment, we’ll also provide some details on this particular subject too.

We’ll also try to give you a better understanding of how our Abacus Therapies team can help your 6-year old.

So, let’s get started!

ABA Therapy: Brief Introduction

At present, there are a variety of treatments that can help kids manage autism symptoms and learn the skills and behaviors they need in their day-to-day lives, but none are as extensively researched as ABA therapy.

ABA therapy is a science-backed approach to managing and treating autism spectrum disorder (ASD). An acronym for applied behavior analysis, ABA therapy is based on the fundamental principles of behaviorism. Its primary goal is to teach, encourage, and nurture positive or desirable behaviors while discouraging and gradually eliminating negative or harmful ones.

This type of therapy originated in the 1960s, but it has since undergone significant changes to reflect our ever-expanding knowledge and understanding of autism. Research has shown that no two autistic people are the same, so modern-day ABA therapy favors a highly personalized approach to treatment, with programs focusing on each individual’s particular needs and goals.

While adults can also benefit from ABA therapy, it is primarily used in children. Over the years, extensive research has found that ABA therapy helps autistic children develop social, language, and motor skills, improve brain function, achieve better academic results, and advance their independent living skills. 

ABA Therapy at 6 Years Old: Is It Too Late?

Although early intervention, typically before the child turns 3, is highly recommended, it isn’t always possible. Nowadays, a child can get a reliable autism diagnosis by the age of 2. In practice, however, the average age of receiving the diagnosis currently stands at close to 5 years in the US.

Thankfully, even though the outcomes may be better if they do so earlier, 6-year-olds can still benefit from a personalized ABA regimen. While intensive therapy typically involves between 25 and 40 hours of sessions per week, children can see an overall improvement in new skill acquisition even with fewer than 25 hours per week.

What Does Autism Therapy for a 6YearOld Look Like?

ABA therapy isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach to autism treatment, so individual programs at Abacus Therapies will vary based on the child’s needs, goals, and improvement plan. 

After an initial assessment, the therapy will consist of sessions, which could last between 1 hour and 8 hours a day, depending on the individual’s needs. In our practice, we hardly ever assign 8-hour ABA sessions. 

The setting and the location of ABA sessions can also be tailored to the child’s needs. While some might benefit from a group setting, others will accomplish more in one-on-one sessions (depending on the location, we can provide both). 

As for the location of the sessions, parents can typically choose between the following:

  • Center-based ABA therapy
  • In-home ABA therapy
  • School-based ABA therapy

At Abacus Therapies, we provide individual school-based and in-home therapy in all of our locations, while group and center-based ABA therapy will soon be available in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The sessions and the program itself are run by our ABA therapists — a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) and a registered behavior technician (RBT). The BCBA assesses the child and develops a treatment plan to help them achieve the program goals. Meanwhile, the RBT applies various science-based techniques to implement this plan and track the child’s progress.

Some of the ABA strategies we most commonly use with 6-year-olds include:

  • Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT)
  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
  • Natural Environment Teaching (NET)
  • Antecedent-Based Interventions (ABI)

Over the course of the treatment, our BCBA will regularly consult with the parents to ensure the child is achieving the desired results. In most cases, we invite the parents to observe the sessions and participate in training sessions where they will be trained on programs and behavior intervention plans. These sessions will help them reinforce positive skills and behaviors at home. 

To assist the parents in keeping their child engaged outside of sessions, our therapists will also recommend some age-appropriate games and activities for autistic kids.

ABA Goals for a 6YearOld

Regardless of age, ABA therapy strives to equip children with all the tools they need to live as independently as possible. There are many positive effects of ABA therapy, all of them tied to achieving a high level of social functioning, personal well-being, and educational success.

When treating preschoolers with autism, our ABA therapists usually focus on the following goals:

  • Enhancing communication skills
  • Acquiring social skills
  • Developing daily routines
  • Improving motor skills

Enhancing Communication Skills

Many autistic children have difficulties conveying their emotions and communicating their needs to their parents or caretakers. With the help of ABA therapy, they will learn how to use words, form complex sentences, make requests, ask for help, answer questions, and engage in more substantial conversations.

Acquiring Social Skills

Good communication skills are a prerequisite for functioning in a social setting, but ABA therapy goes beyond just that. It also teaches autistic kids to share items with their peers, engage in parallel play with other kids, greet other people, and even understand nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions.

Developing Daily Routines

Autistic 6-year-olds may have trouble sticking to daily routines and showing the same level of autonomy as their non-autistic peers. ABA helps them overcome this obstacle by teaching them mealtime skills like using utensils, daily life skills like dressing, and hygiene skills like toileting and brushing their teeth.

Improving Motor Skills

Some autistic children have underdeveloped gross motor skills. The term refers to all skills involving balance, ranging from basic ones like walking and running to more complex ones like riding a bike and throwing and catching. A 2020 study, which compared the effects of ABA therapy and brain gym in autistic kids aged 6–12, found that ABA was much more effective in improving their gross motor skills.

Parents need to remember that ABA therapy can be a years-long process and that no two children will progress at the same pace. At Abacus Therapies, we carefully observe the child’s progress throughout the program, which helps us decide when and how to end ABA therapy.

The Cost of ABA Therapy for a SixYearOld

Like the treatment itself, the cost of ABA therapy is highly individual. It will depend on a number of factors, including the treatment’s location, setting, and intensity. 

Depending on the state they’re in and lots of other factors, the treatment may feel cost-prohibitive for some parents. However, one should bear in mind there are scholarships and grants that can help you offset the cost or even cover it in full. Private insurance providers and Medicaid also provide coverage for ABA therapy. 

The exact amount varies by state, though. For example, the state-mandated health insurance coverage for ABA therapy in Georgia is capped at $35,000 a year. Meanwhile, the maximum coverage for ABA therapy in Florida is $36,000 annually.

Not all policies are subject to state laws and thus might not provide coverage for ABA therapy. For the most accurate information, we always recommend consulting your insurance plan administrator.

At Abacus Therapies, we accept a variety of health insurance providers.

Final Recommendations

Though early intervention is always preferable, it so happens that many kids wait for a proper autism diagnosis — and the start of their treatment — until they’re five or older. Thankfully, it’s never too late to start ABA therapy, and we at Abacus Therapies have witnessed ABA therapy success at that age or older.

While making the first step is never easy, our team of ABA professionals are ready to help your 6-year-old get all the tools they need to live a full and productive life. Schedule a free consultation with one of our highly qualified BCBAs, and we’ll see how we can help you in the best possible way. We will develop a treatment plan perfectly suited to your child’s needs, and we can also help you contact your insurance provider and obtain all necessary documentation.


Is ABA therapy good for autistic children?

Decades of rigorous research have shown that ABA therapy can be very beneficial for autistic children. It helps kids improve their communication, social, and motor skills, teaches them how to act in various day-to-day situations, and equips them with tools for a successful life.

Is 6 years old too late for ABA therapy?

It’s not too late to start ABA therapy at 6 years old. Even though studies have shown that children who start before the age of 3 may achieve better outcomes, most kids begin treatment later because they have to wait for a proper autism diagnosis. Older autistic kids might need more intensive therapy, but they can still accomplish all their improvement goals.

How do you treat autism in a 6yearold?

ABA therapists will first assess the child’s symptoms and consult with the parents to develop a personalized improvement plan. After that, they will apply various science-based techniques and methods to help the child accomplish the plan’s goals. The therapists will carefully track the child’s progress and make any necessary adjustments to the plan.