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Tips on how to use a token board for positive reinforcement

Engaging in non-preferred activities during the day can be a challenge for many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. You can often predict that challenging behaviors will take place during certain activities like writing, the bathroom routine, or coming in from playing outside.  Here are some tips on using a positive reinforcement system or token economy to turn these activities into positive, pleasurable activities.

Using a token board system provides children with visual information about “how and when” to earn their reinforcer (e.g., when all the tokens are on the board, the reinforcer is earned). Be sure to pair this visual system of “how and when” along with a visual of the reinforcer (tangible item or photo of item on the board).

  • Bring reinforcers to the activity (tangible items or picture representations that you know your student enjoys).
  • Prior to the activity, prepare the child. Let him know that the activity is beginning or ending, and ask him what he wants to work for. Show the choices. If he doesn’t want something you have, get additional items. Something is only reinforcing if the student wants it.
  • Once she makes a choice tell her what she needs to do to earn the item chosen (e.g., 3 pennies then puzzle). Break down the activity into a small step. Tell the child one step at a time.
  • Reinforce every step done correctly/appropriately (e.g., “penny on”). When all pennies are earned, take a break and allow the student time with the reinforcer. Then, let the child choose a reinforcer to work for again and repeat the steps above.