How to use Token Reward Systems with children with Autism as a behaviour strategy

behaviour management strategy

Token economy systems (e.g. sticker/reward charts, points systems) are extremely effective tools and behaviour strategy for both parents and teachers in order to provide positive reinforcement, teach appropriate behaviour and minimise challenging behaviour. They allow caregivers to reward target (appropriate) behaviours and allow children to visually see the goal or ‘prize’ that they are working towards if they continue to show this behaviour. Reward charts and other token systems are popular tools however, they only work if they are used correctly! If used incorrectly they can become a source of frustration and waste a lot of your valuable time and resources!
Here are some helpful Do’s and Don’ts of using token systems as a behaviour strategy at home and in the classroom:
• Give the token IMMEDIATELY after the target behaviour occurs to reinforce learning
• Remember, the token itself is not the reward, the token simply helps the child to visually see they are working toward a bigger prize if they keep doing the target behaviour
• The child needs to know what their ‘prize’ will be BEFORE the tokens are given so they know what they are working towards
• The final prize should be something agreed upon by you and the child BEFORE you start giving out the tokens – try giving them a choice of two things that are acceptable to you
• The final prize should be given as soon as the child receives all their tokens so the behaviour is reinforced and they know the system works
• Try to make the tokens interesting and relevant e.g. if they like pirates you could use coins in a treasure chest!
• Make the goal ACHIEVABLE, you want the child to experience success and get the reward. This is a positive reinforcement system to teach correct behaviour, NOT a punishment system
• Target one task or behaviour at a time
• When giving a token, pair this with lots of verbal praise and encouragement
• Don’t say “Wow you got your tokens! You can have your prize next week”. The reinforcement must be given immediately otherwise the tokens will be meaningless
• DON’T TAKE TOKENS AWAY for incorrect behaviour – use this system to REWARD CORRECT behaviour, not as punishment
• Don’t try to target too many behaviours using the one token system – pick one task or behaviour e.g. morning routine for school or sitting appropriately on the carpet. Tokens can be given for each part of this task done correctly.

token economy cycle

So if used correctly, token systems can be extremely effective. You can be really creative with the kinds of tokens you use and can adapt them to make them really motivating for your child or class. Here are some examples of tried and tested ideas that really work:
• A marble in a jar when you spot a target behaviour – when the jar is full, class/family gets a reward!
• Sticker charts
• Class Dojo
• Earning money to spend on a prize
Check out these fantastic ideas on Pinterest: