The Beloved Token Economy

The beloved Token Economy is a tried & true behavior management technique!

A Token Economy is an implementation technique for Positive Reinforcement, the backbone of ABA Therapy. Give a child something they love for behaving the way you want them to and you will see that desired behavior skyrocket!

You don’t have to have a degree in economics to understand it, it’s simple! Learners earn tokens (stars, stickers, tickets, etc.) for displaying a desired behavior. They then exchange the tokens for a larger prize (candy, iPad, fun activity time, etc.).

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THE PROCESS:
1. Decide on the specific amount of tokens your learner will need to earn in order to obtain their reinforcer. (Beginner learners should have very few, while advanced learners can work for more tokens over an extended period of time).

2. Give your learner a choice of larger reinforcers and let them decide which one they want to work for that day. (This is a crucial step. If your learner is not motivated to work for the reinforcer, little behavior change will occur).

3. If possible, explain to your learner the expected behavior required to earn tokens. For some learners, it will help to know what desired behavior you will be watching for them to display. This is not a requirement for a Token Economy to be successful. Some learners will begin to understand the Token Economy after it has gone into effect and the Differential Reinforcement taking place will positively affect your child’s behavior with no explanation ever needing to take place.

4. Give your learner a token immediately after you see them engage in the desired behavior. Tell your learner why they have received the token. For example “Wow Johnny! You just earned another token for staying in your seat during the movie!”

5. Once your learner has obtained all of the required tokens, give your learner their big prize with a whole lot of positive praise for a job well done.

When done correctly, a Token Economy can be successful with just about anyone. It has been proven to be very effective for students with special needs. It is also an Evidence Based Practice (EBP) for children with autism.

One reason that a Token Economy is so effective is due to the fact that the learner can visually see the progress they are making. This Visual Support (EBP) can be calming because the learner knows what is going to happen next. Token Economy is also a great way to teach delayed gratification, because the student must wait for all tokens to be obtained before the big prize is received.

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Token Economy boards are easy to make. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen. Even a post-it note will work to create a discreet token board for an older learner. If you’d like to make a reusable version, you can get creative with laminated paper, a white board pen, Velcro and stickers of your learner’s favorite cartoon characters.

Give it a try! Learn more by visiting Autism Therapy Career College.

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