Using a Token Board system in our house has made such a difference in how we can effectively communicate with our daughter. I don’t claim to be a professional so please when you read any of my blog posts take them as the personal experience of a mother trying to figure out the best way to help her autistic daughter and sharing her personal experiences both good and bad. In our house I had to be the one to spend countless late nights on the internet searching for Ideas and therapies for specific behaviors one at a time. And then in the mornings try a few and see if any of them clicked and if not repeat the same thing the next night. I couldn’t get the advice of a professional because she wasn’t diagnosed. She was evaluated a couple of times but because she does very well with older people no body could see what I saw at home and in public. The evaluations were usually with 1 or 2 adults at a time giving her 1 on 1 attention so she would pass all the tests. All they would say is she had Developmental Speech Delay and recommend speech therapy. This went on for 2 years. I couldn’t sit on my butt and wait until someone noticed what I had been telling them. So I turned to the internet and researched her behaviors and that is how I came across Autism. All the characteristics matched! I was on to something! Finally yay! In this blog I will document everything we do hoping it helps someone. But in this post I will be specifically talking about the Token Economy Board and how We use it. This doesn’t mean it’s the end all be all advise so you can take the basic context and tweak it to meet your needs. I have also made a few fun token boards because I like to keep things exciting for my daughter and a lot of the free token boards I saw online are boring standard blah blah blah. So hopefully I can figure out how to add a PDF to this blog but if I don’t just ask and I will email it to you.
So I am starting with this topic because so many people have requested my method of using it. Especially the people that knew my daughter before I started implementing my research. Please understand that this post is long winded and without very many technical terms since I’m really trying to keep it simple for those of you that are looking for a starting point.
It is my Personal belief that the best way to get your child’s attention is through something they like. So my token boards are themed based on what she is interested in at the moment. That way she is excited to earn her tokens at the moment the token board is My Little Pony and the tokens are Cutie Marks. I mostly use the token board for things I know she won’t want to do. After school I have “homework” prepared for her. this includes tracing letters upper and lowercase, practice her sight words (reading and writing them), sitting quietly while I read her a story that she doesn’t really care for to name a few. A lot of the work that we do daily I have laminated and give her dry erase markers so she can do her work. All of the laminated sheets I have for her have square of the fuzzy side of velcro and each of my tokens have the hooked side. I stick a token on everything I want her to do and let her know before hand how many tokens she has to earn to cash in for her reward. I’ve also been teaching her how to self regulate her token board so as she finishes the task she takes the token to her token board and moves to the next item. So on the back of the token board I have a First, Next and Last so that she always knows what we are are doing and where to find her next task. and at the bottom of the schedule I also have a soft velcro where there will be another token for when she finishes all the tasks.
As for rewards they can be anything. In our case I started taking pictures of things I know she loves to play with or read and activities she loves to do. The toughest part of this when I was getting started was NOT letting her do things she has always done freely, such as jumping on her indoor trampoline or playing with her doll house etc. Other examples of rewards that I use are Dancing With Mommy she loves this one the most (you have to throw maturity out of the window and boogie with everything you’ve got) You see I can’t speak for anyone else but Isabella has a very strong ability to know when you are going through the motions or when you are actually fully engaged in the activity. So I give the kids as much effort as I want them to give me. So all of these activities and toys that I’ve taken a picture of I have printed and laminated and stuck some velcro to the back. So once we are ready to get to work I have her select her reward and put it on her Token Board up top where it says I’m working For. Then I tell her how many she needs to earn to get the reward. Depending on the day whether she is having a good day or bad I adjust the expectations. For example tracing the letters on a good day I will have her do the whole sheet before being able to take her token but if I know she’s not in the working kind of mood I will set a timer and tell her ok trace letters until the timer buzzes. And again how much time I set the timer for will depend on how I think she’s doing. Remember the objective is to get your child to perform the task successfully. So I won’t set her up for failure but I can’t back away from the terms either because then they will quickly figure out that if they want to get out of doing something all they have to do is have a meltdown. When she doesn’t want to finish the task I don’t give her the option to go to the next. Her only option is to go to the quiet corner (I refuse to call it timeout) or to finish the task but no yelling kicking hitting throwing is allowed that will get her sent to her quiet corner. And in the corner I have a water bottle with glitter that I made that when shaken it takes 2 minutes for the glitter to settle. So she knows that she has to go sit and shake her bottle and she usually watches the glitter settle and this alone calms her down then she waits for permission to come back and finish the task. I have other calm down items for her in the corner as well more on that on another post.
So fast forward your child has now earned all the tokens necessary to cash in for reward. If you have more work for your child to do you need to let them know ok we are going to Dance for 10 minutes when the timer buzzes we have to do blank blank and blank. I always try to keep my daughter informed and out of the tasks that I have for her to do I make sure to give her the chance to choose as many as possible. For example if the task is writing I will have several different writing things for her to do could be tracing, or writing with her finger or stick in the sand, pencil or crayon. It doesn’t matter as long as she is writing I don’t try to make things seem like all work work work because then she will tune me out and it’s lose lose. That’s not to say that everything is her choice I put things in that HAVE to be my way.
After training her at home to use her token board I made a copy for her teacher which was having a bit of a hard time getting her to do things she didn’t want to do. Even things I knew she could do for example read a book that we have been reading at home every night for a week but at school she wouldn’t get past the 1st word! I even tried to get her to read it for her teacher and she behaved like she didn’t know the words. As soon as we got to the car I gave her the book again and she read the whole thing without a problem. I figured then that she thinks there is a separate set of rules for being at school. Once I gave the teacher a copy of the token board I use at home Isabella’s was pretty upset for about 5 minutes. I believe that is when she realized she would have to work to earn her rewards at school as well 🙂 But after the initial shock of her worlds combining Home, school, and ABA, she actually did so much better. The rest of her day was perfect. She now had control of how her day went. She has a visual of what she needs to do and how much more she has to earn to get her reward. Her Teacher is happy and for the past 3 weeks has had about 2 or 3 very short (less than 5 minutes) meltdowns.
So the following are photos of my token board and I am working on several more so if you have a theme that you think your child would like let me know and I will try to put one together. Thanks for reading about our journey and I hope this post helps someone!