Token Boards and Behavior Charts Just Don't work! I've tried them...

April 27, 2017


When you Google "Token Boards" you are bound to come across over 100 million search results. There are several blogs, stimuli, and information on token boards and behavior charts. Almost all these resources recommend the use of token why do parents and teachers often say that "behavior charts" or "token boards" just don't work with their child/student. 


Lets take a look at a few questions to ask before starting a token board with your child/student:


1. Does the child have the ability to wait for reinforcement?

For example, can you have your child do something 5 times before you give him/her the reward? Children under 4 have a harder time waiting for reinforcers. They typically want everything- NOW! 


2. Does your child understand what the token means? 

Lets face it- if your boss said that he/she will no longer be paying you in dollars, but rather in tokens- will you stay at that work? NO!

What if I told you that the government now accepts tokens as a form of payment? Will you stay now? YES!

Same goes with tokens- even though our cute little stickers with smiley faces or laminated Thomas the Engine train tokens are beautiful- they must have VALUE to the child. The tokens need to represent some type of accumulation to earn a reinforcer at the end of the collection. 


3. Will you be able to deliver the tokens consistently?  

The goal with token boards is to implement them consistently. You would not want your boss to say "Ooops, I forgot to pay you this week!" - same goes with tokens! Make sure you are readily available to deliver these tokens when you "catch" your child doing the behaviors you want them to do. 


4. Can you identify behaviors you would like to "reward" with a token? 

When you are given an employment contract, you want to make sure that you know what your duties consist of in order to do your job and get paid. Same with token boards! Your child needs to understand what behaviors they need to engage in to receive a token!


5. Will you be able to deliver the reinforcement of choice immediately if your child earns all the tokens? 

The goal is that once your child earns the last token and has "filled up the token board"- that the reward will come immediately after the last token is earned. When picking the reinforcers- make sure they are things your child likes, but also things you can deliver! If the reinforcement is a trip to Disneyland- make sure you have a plan for that (for example, if your child earns the last token on a Wednesday night at 8pm- how likely are you to get up and go to Disneyland?). 



These are questions that must be asked and developed before implementing the token board with the child. If these are not considered, the token board will not have any meaning to the child.

There are also several other ways to implement a token board based on other variables- for example, reinforcing the "absence" of a problem behavior.

Token boards can also be as complex or as simple as possible. Each token economy system created for each child needs to fit the child's needs and level.

Before beginning any token economy system, I highly suggest speaking to a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or a special educator with background in ABA to know 1) if your child is ready for a token board and if one is needed and 2) If needed, how and where to begin


Here at Behavior Trend, we evaluate all these considerations as part of our programs and explain and teach the process. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact us during office hours. 









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