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Another "Token System" for Behavior Correction

By Diane:

RYAN'S TOKEN PROGRAM: (This was implemented around the same time our son turned 5):

Tokens (pennies) are earned for doing well in therapy or school, minding parents at home, eating new foods introduced in his new foods program or at home, etc. Tokens are lost for aggression or non-compliance. They are neither earned nor lost when he is "lukewarm"....neither trying hard nor acting up.

They are used everywhere: school, OT, Speech, home, ABA therapy, while on errands...everywhere. He has a token notebook with a pouch to keep his earned pennies, as well as a supply of pennies that can be earned. His notebook stays in his school bag, which is brought home for afternoon ABA, and if it is ever left at school or home, pennies are easy to replace and keep the system going.

Pennies (Tokens) can be redeemed for preferred outings, activities, snacks...anything that is reinforcing for our son. Everything has a price associated -- the number of tokens needed to redeem. We attempt to give immediate gratification where ever possible (monitor pennies and be prepared when he gets close to a milestone he will want to redeem.) If he earns something that may take a little planning to arrange, we put it on the calendar, and he can cross the days off while anticipating what he "earned".

We made a laminated penny chart of 10 squares per line, 50 squares in total on the page, and noted increments of 5 under the squares, totalling 50. The chart is kept in his school notebook, and we count his pennies before leaving for school each day as well as before and after every ABA session, to help remind him how many he has and how many more he needs to earn to redeem for desired reinforcers. He also has a notebook of laminated pecs photos (from our digital camera) of things he can redeem his pennies for, and the number of pennies needed for each item. He flips through his PECs binder regularly to view the many reinforcers he can choose from. Sometimes he changes his mind, and that's okay too. I take the digital camera everywhere, and make small laminated PECS of preferred places, activities, toys and food to add to his PECs binder. While he is quite verbal now, the photos help motivate him. This system has been amazingly effective as a motivation tool, with reinforcements ranging from a cookie or other favorite snack -- to being able to play in the Kids' playyard at Mommy's gym while mommy works out -- to outings to the park or Chuck E. Cheese -- to the ultimate: a trip to Disneyland (we have season passes).

Recently, we had to make our son's Token System even more complex, because he fell into a rut of always being bad at school, and losing tokens, then being perfect at home and afternoon ABA to earn back what he lost. Did this for 10 days straight, and continued to not be able to earn what he was working for because he still lost then gained, lost then gained....school life suffered because all of his behaviors were happening at school. Now he earns NICKELS at school (and only at school) and PENNIES at home/therapy/outings. He loses tokens the same way for negative behaviors - pennies at home/therapy/outings and nickels at school. They are just considered tokens. He has not yet learned monetary values, but the NICKELS are bigger and brighter, so he is more motivated to be good at school and earn nickels. Any reinforcer priced less than 20 pennies kept the same pricing, as we anticipate pennies to be earned more quickly since they are given in so many different venues, other than school. Pricing for larger reinforcers (20 pennies or more) changed to 1/2 pennies, 1/2 nickels (eg, The old price of 20 pennies became 10 pennies and 10 nickels, 25 pennies became 13 pennies and 12 nickels, etc.) Immediately after implementing the new token system, his reports from school drastically improved. His school shadow noticed him making obvious mental choices when tempted to be bad at school, and could see him shake his head and choose the right behavior.

This token system is one of the best things we implemented, and is extremely motivating. Can also curb a major meltdown before it happens, as he does not want to lose tokens, or the chance to earn a preferred reinforcer. The occasional meltdown is turned around fairly quickly, and we are ALL much happier using this system. (It can be hysterical when our son finds a penny on the sidewalk, or in the dryer when helping with the laundry....their value takes on a whole new meaning!)

[my thanks to Diane for allowing me to use her token system description on my site]

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