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How to Create a Token Board

Token Boards are a great way to motivate someone and clearly display what it is that they are working for and how close they are to getting it. While token boards are commonly used to motivate younger, typical students and some students with autism, the complexity and uniqueness of your token board is only limited by your imagination. The more individualized it is to the student, the more likely it is that the person will respond to the system.

The Basics

All token boards follow a similar pattern and can be divided into three sections:

• The reinforcer section • The 'tokens to earn' section • The 'tokens earned' section

The reinforcer section represents what the student will receive after he earns all of the tokens. This can be an image of an item, a certain amount of time to access something, an activity, a choice, music or time with a friend. The tokens to earn section contains the pieces or tokens which each represent a step toward the reinforcer. The tokens earned section should be clearly divided from the 'tokens to earn section' to make it clear how much progress has been made or needs to be made before the reinforcer becomes available to them.

Choosing the Materials

What material you choose to construct your token board out of depends on what the student you are motivating likes. For instance, one of my students really liked dinosaurs. After finding an appropriate dinosaur image, I enlarged it, glued it to some cardboard and attached small Velcro pieces to the back of each piece. When the pieces are jumbled it was even more fun for him to earn these pieces to find out what dinosaur it was! Sometimes, the actual reinforcer (or part of it) can act as the token board itself! I usually try to build my token boards to last because you never know when you may use it again or change it slightly to use with another student. Lamination is a good way to create long-lasting boards and tokens that can grow with all of your students. Otherwise, your materials should be constructed out of rigid material such as cardboard or heavy weight paper.

The Time Frame and Ground Rules

How often you deliver a token depends on the behavior of the recipient. Generally, there should be a higher frequency of token delivery for appropriate behavior and task completion. Also, there is no rule which states that you have to only deliver one token at a time! Once the tokens become significant, giving multiple tokens for outstanding behavior is a great example of differential reinforcement and can be highly motivating. Removing a token (as a response cost) for certain behaviors can also be a crucial way to make it clear that some behavior is unacceptable. If the student does not consider these tokens significant yet, though, these techniques will have little consequence.

Girl with Token Board

Change it up!

Finally, don't forget to change your token board periodically and adjust it to your students' current preferences. Last month's favorite animated movie can quickly lose significance and be replaced by his, now favorite TV show. The easiest way to find this out is by simply observing what your student chooses to read, play with or talk about and steer the board to those topics. Sometimes, if you have created a 'universal' type board, you can easily change the tokens to reflect these changes and keep the board fresh and engaging for them.


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