Friday, January 13, 2012

5 New and Fun Ways to Use Token Boards

A token economy or system can be a great way to help your student focus and allows you to set manageable goals from them to attain. If you are not familiar with token boards in general, take a look at "How to Create a Token Board" for more information on the basics.

Your main goal with any token system should be to make it fun! The best way to do this is by individualizing your system to each student. Their age, likes and dislikes and comprehension level should all play a part in how you choose to proceed. It's important to note that higher functioning students can benefit from token economies as well; a good imagination and more complex approaches work well here. Let's take a look at five examples of token systems that you can use to help your student succeed.

1) Photographs as Puzzles
Sometimes, pairing tokens with a reward can be challenging. This approach can be a great way to accomplish this. If, for instance, your student likes dinosaurs, why not incorporate this into your system. By finding a picture of a dinosaur and breaking it up into pieces, you can deliver each piece individually. Laminating these pieces after you cut them up will make them sturdier. You've now made the token board into a puzzle for the student that they can interact with each time they earn a token!

2) Point Systems
In the example above, each token delivered represents an equal achievement toward a goal. Teachers and parents can benefit from varying the significance of each token depending on what the student accomplishes. For instance, if a learner read a sentence correctly, teachers can deliver a 5 point token. If a whole page is read independently a 20 point token can be delivered. With this system, you can offer increasingly rewarding items or activities depending on how many points are attained in a given period.

3) Dollars and Cents
Here's an example we can all relate to! This is a wonderful opportunity to teach to the life skill of earning and spending money. Any "play money" can be used and usually found at local toy stores or you can create your own money system (just don't get too realistic!). Cashing-in on different items or activities can be left up to the student here and can encourage long-range goals and reinforcers (a $100 trip to an amusement park for instance). A dry-erase board with items/activities to earn can easily be adjusted depending on what the student is working toward.

4) Teaching Opportunities
Since tokens should generally be delivered on a fairly regular basis (to help highlight positive responses) teachers can use this as a way to cover basic concepts being taught to. For instance, if arithmetic is being reviewed, the "tokens to earn" section can be made-up of equations (such as a small card reading 4 x 4=). Below this section, in the "earned tokens" area, the appropriate answer would be the landing zone for this particular token (i.e. 16). Having the student deliver the token himself will teach and reinforce at the same time!

5) Time Based Systems
While the previous examples largely focus on earning items or activities, teachers can also create a time based system. Each token could represent a certain amount of time that the learner earns that ultimately allows access to an item or activity. That way, the better a student does (i.e. more time tokens earned) the greater the amount time they can spend with the item. This concept can also be stretched-out to represent weekly or even monthly goals. For instance, a board with each day of the week could be used to keep track of how many times a student practices piano, for example. Setting a goal of three practice days and helping learners refer to this system can foster independence and reinforce longer-term goals.

About the author:

Mr. Jeffrey Young is the President and Founder of Innovative Piano, Inc. Mr. Young has published over 17 books dealing with music and autism. To learn more about the author and the program please visit

Innovative Piano, Inc.
Offering piano lessons for students with autism - Nationwide!

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