Token Economy

Token Economy

One tool that you’re probably familiar with without realizing that it is a behavioral strategy is the token economy (aka token board.) The token economy is an evidence-based tool with many research studies supporting its efficacy in a variety of settings with various populations. Here are just a few:

· Social skills training programs for young, high functioning children with autism (Chung et al., 2006)

· Pediatric life-threatening health conditions (Carton & Schweitzer, 1996; Kahana, Frazier, & Drotar, 2008)

· Increasing physical activity in chronically ill adults (Conn et al., 2008)

· Increasing attentiveness and reducing disruptiveness among kids with ADHD (Reitman et al., 2001)

In the real world a token system is an easy, manageable way to reward/ reinforce behaviors without disruption. Let’s say I have a student who is super motivated by playing on the computer. I can give them a token for preferred behavior during our math lesson and at the end of the lesson, he can play on the computer for 5 minutes if he earned 10 tokens. That is much more practical than interrupting the math lesson to play on the computer.

Let’s look at another example. Maybe my kiddo is struggling with her reading homework and really motivated by music. For every page she reads, I start giving her a sticker. Once she gets five stickers, she gets to listen to her favorite song before going back to reading.

When using a token economy, there are a few things you want to remember:

1. Deliver tokens immediately and often

2. Provide social reinforcement (verbal praise) when delivering the token

3. Ensure that the kid actually wants the reinforcer they’re working for

You can quickly and easily make your own token economy using a post it note and stickers, drawing stars on a piece of construction paper, or velcroing poker chips to a ruler. You can make it as fun or as simple as you’d like. If your kiddo is really into PJ Masks, head on over to my TPT store to snag this adorable token system for just $1!

Mayer, Sulzer-Azaroff, & Wallace (2014)