Token Economy: Benefits and ABA Therapy

Reward systems or reinforcements are used daily in Applied Behavior Therapy, also known as ABA therapy. Rewards are used to help build skills and behaviors in children who have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. Rewards can be many different things, but it is based on what your child is motivated for. Many times, you will see an edible, a specific toy or game, or a movement (such as going down a slide or running to the end of a room and back) as a reinforcement.

Reinforcements are great and can really motivate a child to continue to learn and grow. Once a child understands the concept of a reward, something called a token economy can be used. Token economies are a commonly used by ABA therapist as a behavior management technique.

Token economies are when a token, sticker, check mark, or other items/ marking are given to an individual who has demonstrated the desired behavior that their therapist or teacher has identified ( An individual can either exchange in a certain amount of acquired tokens for a reward or something called a token board can be used where there are a set number of tokens to earn while working towards the reinforcement. used a great analogy of money for working individuals to what a token economy is. We work for money, then we exchange the money for something else. Money has no value by itself, but when you exchange it, you can get an item or activity that is desired. Token economies allow a child to do the same. The chip or check mark has no value, but when certain amount ais received the child can exchange their work for a reward.

Token economies help teach an individual three important things. First patience, because they must wait for their reward. Second, accountability, because they must complete what is being asked to get the reward. Third it helps reinforces positive behaviors (

Token economies do not only have to be used in ABA therapy. They are simple enough to use with your child at home too. Here are the simple steps you can use with your child. (

  1. Select the behavior you are looking to reward.
  2. Tell your child the desired behavior and use very specific and observable terms. (Always phrase them in a positive way!)
  3. Decide how you will be measuring the behavior (e.g., number of times they do the behavior as described, number of correct or percentage of correct answers, time spent engaging in behavior).
  4. Decide where you will monitor the behavior (e.g., only at the dinner table, throughout the house, etc.).
  5. Choose the initial reinforcer. This should be easy and convenient for you. Also select a token/item/ marking you will use when tallying.
  6. Select a backup reinforcer. Make sure your kiddo is involved in the choosing.
  7. If you are using the tokens in a “price” form (meaning they decide how many tokens to use to “purchase” the reward), place a price or amount on the number of tokens to get the reward or backup reward.
  8. If you are using the tokens in a “price” form create a value on each token as well.
  9. Create your own monitoring sheet to track your child’s progress.
  10. Have your materials ready and try it out!
  11. Modify the system as needed.

Token economies can be very effective to motivate a child or to manage behaviors. They are also very easy to implement and can even be fun!

Here at ABA Autism Therapy, our dedicated staff can provide you and your family with interventions designed to incrementally improve your child’s independence, skills of daily living, academic performance and behavior. Contact us today to discuss how we can assist you!