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ABA Therapy

Understanding The Benefits And Uses Of Token Boards For Children With Autism

When learning something new, a word of praise can go a long way. Speaking positively about the accomplishments that one has made on their learning journey so far is just one way that educators can positively reinforce someone learning a new skill or behavior.

For children with autism receiving ABA therapy, learning new skills and behaviors is an everyday occurrence. Similar to the example above, encouraging children to receive ABA through positive reinforcers is a great way for them to learn new skills and reduce maladaptive behaviors.

To make learning new skills and behaviors easier for children with autism, ABA therapists equip themselves with tools like token boards.

What Is a Token Board?

A token board is a visual tool that ABA therapists use to reinforce positive behavior in children with autism.

They usually are designed in the shape of a board or chart with spaces for tokens or stickers that can be placed on the board as a reward for performing desired behaviors or actions. Once a child with autism earns a certain number of tokens, the child can exchange them for a predetermined reward or privilege.

Through the use of a token board during ABA therapy, children with ASD may feel more motivated. Token boards also encourage positive behavior by providing a clear way to track progress and earn rewards.

Over time, the use of this positive reinforcement system is reduced until the child can integrate the desired behavior into their daily life.

Do Token Boards Help Children With Autism? 

Several studies explain that token boards positively affect how a child with autism receives ABA therapy.

In a recent study, Rachel S.F. Tarbox et al. state, “Token reinforcement increased the attending behavior of a young child with autism. The results also show that the token required for backup reinforcement can be increased without sacrificing the strength or stability of attending.”

A 2022 study by Natalie R. Andzik, Elle M. Smith, and Nancy A Neef delves even deeper into how token boards help children with autism. The group explored the effectiveness of using a token-based system in a school or home setting to treat escape-maintain problem behavior without the use of extinction.

 “All four participants exhibited substantial decreases in problem behavior and increases in compliance when tokens were delivered contingent on compliance.”

Knowing that a good chunk of research supports the use of token boards and their positive effects on children with autism, we can explore a few strategies that could be used during ABA therapy.

Strategies for Using a Token Board During ABA Therapy

Although it has been proven that token boards can be an effective tool during ABA therapy, there are several ways that you can maximize the effectiveness of treatment.


  • Establish a concrete set of rules – Sticking to a routine and being consistent is critical for children receiving ABA therapy. So, don’t keep swapping out different conditions or changing the design of the board. If changes occur, ensure they are gradual and explained to the client if possible.

  • Choose a motivating reward – Does the child have a favorite toy? What about a snack they really enjoy? Choosing a reward that they can look forward to will make them more willing to work toward goals.

  • Use a token board that your client loves – Because token boards are so simple to create, ABA therapists can easily customize one to align with a child’s interests, from anything to a favorite superhero or a love of baseball.

  • Provide immediate reinforcement – As soon as a client earns a token, provide immediate verbal praise, and place the token on the board. Doing this can help motivate the individual to continue working toward the reward and help reinforce the desired behavior.

  • Use different kinds of tokens – Don’t limit yourself to only one kind of sticker – try different colors, themed materials, or even tokens based on your client’s favorite character or tv show.

  • Reduce the usage of the token board over time – As a client begins to master a targeted skill or behavior, an ABA therapist can start to lessen the use of a token board during treatment.

The Use of Token Boards at Applied ABC

Token boards are just one of many tools that ABA therapists use at Applied ABC. Ally Burke, a BCBA, provided her thoughts on their use at Applied ABC.

“Token boards can be a valuable tool to build new skills for learners. When clients are involved in the process of either making their token board or picking their tokens, it gets them excited to use these materials because it is personalized.”

Do you have a child with an official autism diagnosis and looking for a family-first approach to ABA therapy? Visit our Getting Started page to take the next big steps of your child’s personal autism journey.

Sources Cited

Tarbox, R.; Ghezzi, P.; Wilson, G. Wiley Online Library. The Effects of Token Reinforcement on Attending in a Young Child With Autism.

Andzik, N.; Smith, E.; Neef, N. Sage Journals. Using a Token Economy to Treat Escape-Maintained Problem Behavior Without Extinction.

Other articles

ABA Therapy Basics

Examples Of ABA Therapy

How ABA Therapy Works At Applied ABC

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