The Token Economy System is an extremely effective contingency management system and is designed to help children with autism or related developmental delays to:
- Increase desirable behavior and decrease undesirable behavior
- Learn to self-monitor
- Visualize the progress of a task
- Accept and work for delayed reinforcement/rewards
In this article, our Site Director, Ms. Sherrianne Cheah, shares some tips whilst using this system.
9 Tips on Using the Token Economy:
Tip 1: Use tokens with images or characters that your child likes
Tip 2: Adjust the number of tokens according to your child’s ability
Start with ONE (1) token for your child to understand quickly what he or she is earning the token for. Once your child understands the contingency of what they are earning the tokens for, you can gradually increase the number of tokens needed to be earned as your child progresses. This will set your child up for a higher chance of success and completion, allowing him or her to stay motivated.
Tip 3: The token board should be visible to your child whilst he or she is practising so your child can see where the board starts and where it ends.
Tip 4: Before each trial, take out all the tokens from the token board. This way, your child will know it is time to begin the token round.
Tip 5: Ensure your child sees you giving him or her the tokens so that he or she is aware of what is expected
Tip 6: Label the desired behavior when you deliver the token to your child
When you label the behavior, your child will know what he or she needs to do to earn the token. E.g. If the desired behavior is to have your child ‘sit nicely’, tell your child he or she is sitting nicely (point to your child’s lap or thighs for better understanding) and immediately give your child the token. This will help them understand the desired behavior expected.
Tip 7: Pair social reinforcement whilst delivering the token
Give your child a Hi- 5 or verbal praise like “Great! You did it!” Eventually, we want your child to learn with only social reinforcement provided and without using tokens.
Tip 8: Be consistent with the giving of tokens
Give tokens only when your child shows the desired behavior. For example, if the desired behavior is having ‘nice hands’, give your child the token only when he or she is having nice hands and not grabbing items. We don’t want your child to get confused if they are given tokens and reinforced for disruptive behaviors.
Tip 9: Ensure that your child knows the token board is complete and is allowed to go for a break or playtime
When the board is complete, you can teach your child to say "all done", then the board is exchanged with you as reinforcement. During this break or playtime, your child can access the reinforcement/reward.
When done correctly, the token system will help jumpstart your child’s learning of appropriate ‘learning how to learn’ behaviors. This will, in turn, helps your child be a more successful and independent learner.