Token economies: If you have even spent a day inside an autism classroom, it’s more than likely not your first rodeo using token economies. Token economies are used so often because they are so versatile: you can target reinforcement of several behaviors at once, you can run them so that students are using them independently or in a dependent or interdependent fashion, and it allows for students to earn whichever type of reinforcement their little hearts desire.
However, I think the versatility and simplicity of token economies sometimes lends to us making some mistakes when using them. You might be in the middle of working with a student, and all the sudden you’re at a lost for how to administering the token economy in the moment, or worse, it seems like the token economy is not working at all to change your student’s behavior. You second guess yourself for a minute.
Well, I am here to clear the air about some of the things you might have silently asked yourself while using a token economy.
Nah, son. Pretty much anything tangible can be used as tokens to exchange for backup reinforcers. I have seen blocks, marbles, even simple tallies on a piece of paper. If you think your guys might be too big for token boards, things like paperclips, poker chips, and other small items can work. If you want to stick to a whole-class system, you can make it super functional and use (fake) money as tokens where students have to “pay” for their backup reinforcers. If you want to up the ante and make it really fit life skills application, you can have your students use a balance that they have to use to keep track of their tokens. I love using the money token economy set in my Teachers Pay Teachers store for this reason.
If you have students that you can rely on to administer tokens to themselves, you can also put a self-monitoring system in place. Not only does it take the onus of administering tokens to the learner, but it also teaches students to taken responsibility of making sure they are exhibiting desired behavior. Read more about how I use self-monitoring.