There are few things more satisfying than seeing a child learn while having fun. For children with autism, token boards represent an amazing way to learn multiple concepts that can be engaging, unique to their interests, and extremely effective.
In this guide to using a token board in ABA therapy, we’ll explain what a token board is, why they are a great tool in most ABA frameworks, and how you can make one of your own.
What is a Token Board?
A token board is an intentionally designed board that uses the principles of primary and secondary reinforcers to teach concepts and behaviors to children with autism. A primary reinforcer is something that is inherently desired – food or playtime, for example. Children don’t need to be taught to want these things. However, attaching a primary reinforcer to a secondary reinforcer – such as using a token to earn a treat – can act as a very powerful learning mechanism for children.
Why Use a Token Board in ABA Therapy?
Token boards promote both forms of reinforcement, provide an enjoyable mechanism for teaching and learning, and are adaptable to your child’s unique needs. This is especially powerful as your child grows and their interests change while the token economy format remains the same. Consistent learning routines that can evolve with your child are some of the best ways to make children with autism feel comfortable in an educational environment.
Additionally, token boards are a great way to incorporate visual tracking into ABA frameworks, which allows us to build even more skill-building into an exercise. The ‘how and when’ element is important for children with autism to practice, and the token board is a great way for accomplishing this.
Finally, the interactive nature of token boards will provide an opportunity for social learning and collaboration that many other reinforcement techniques lack. When it comes down to it, token boards perfectly illustrate the fun of learning in ABA therapy.
How do Token Boards Work for Autism Treatment?
Token boards work so well for autism treatment and ABA therapy because they become essential to your child’s learning environment. They provide a structured way for children to combine primary reinforcers with secondary reinforcers for long-term behavioral growth. With this in mind, here are some strategies for using a token board:
- Set Firm Rules and Stick to Them: Routine and consistency are paramount for children with ABA – especially when it comes from parents, teachers, and caregivers who reinforce actions. This also acts as an excellent way to introduce specific conditions you like for future behavioral changes.
- Teach Backward from the Goal: If your child needs five tokens to earn candy (or whatever other primary reinforcer you use), introduce the board while it is full of tokens to explain it. This method is called backward chaining, and it helps your child visualize and understand the concept and reward easily.
- Make Token Boards Fun: We can use token boards for any behavior with any reinforcer and present them in many ways. Our recommendation is to choose a theme that your child is interested in. A dinosaur-themed homework token board seems a lot more fun than a plain board with no decoration or secondary theme.
- Have Tiered Goals: Creating ways for children to strive for excellence is a great way to teach long-term success. There should be benchmarks for moderate amounts of tokens but also work in large rewards. Consistently deliver goals immediately, and make sure to include other regular forms of praise such as compliments.
Using these strategies, token boards can be diverse and effective learning tools for almost any goal in ABA therapy. They are easy to make, use and offer a refreshing take on behavioral reinforcement.
Token Board Economy Examples
When creating a token board, the actual tokens and their functions are important to consider alongside the behavioral reinforcement. Token economies need to implement visual and tangible representations of the generalized conditioned reinforcers (the goals and pathways). This means you will want to have individualized tokens that can be deployed easily and immediately and that your child enjoys using.
Tokens can be stickers, coins, poker chips, marbles, or anything easily collectible and quantifiable. Using marbles as an example, you could create a goal of finishing homework on time each night, and if your child successfully completes homework on time, you give them a marble as a reward – maybe even two if they do their task for a set amount of days in a row. Finally, as a reward your child can exchange a week’s worth of marbles for a piece of candy.
This is just one example of using token boards in ABA therapy, but the possibilities are nearly endless. Whatever style of token board you create, make sure it is integrated into the ABA framework provided by a therapist or clinician so that you can deploy it across environments. This will allow for a comprehensive learning tool that can be adapted as your child excels and grows.
Learn More About Token Boards at Ally Pediatric Therapy
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, our goal is to find functional solutions for behavioral challenges using ABA therapy. We are more than happy to help you create a token board, guide you through its functions, and even provide templates. If you want to learn more about token boards and ABA therapy, please reach out to us for a free consultation today.