How to Use a Token Board

8/11/2020 By Candous McGuire, MS, BCBA

We all need motivation to get the job done sometimes. Building tolerance for increased amounts of “work” can be an especially challenging task for children with autism but it's an important skill to have in order to be successful in a variety of environments. Token Boards are both a tool and a visual support that can help offer positive reinforcement and encourage your child to stay on task and meet their goal. After all, we all love to earn a gold star for our work!

Token Boards have been proven to increase the amount of “work” completed in a given period of time as well as decrease the amount of time it takes to learn a new concept. To simplify, a token is an object or symbol that can be exchanged for a greater reward. A Token Board displays the amount of tokens that must be earned in order to make that exchange and is where tokens are placed once they have been earned. The AIM Clinics Token Board includes six gold star tokens that can be customized for use depending on the needs of your child: some children may work for two tokens while others may be ready to work for five or even six tokens!

  • First, evaluate an achievable amount of tokens your child must earn in order to exchange them for a greater reward.

  • Pro tip: Start small and work your way up. The amount of tokens earned typically ranges from 3-10.

  • Depending on the skill level or age of your child, gather highly preferred objects or create a list of highly preferred activities that your child can choose from to exchange their tokens once earned.

  • We recommend using magnetic tokens and posting them in a central location, such as on the refrigerator or on a whiteboard. You want your child to be able to clearly see the token board, but not be distracted by other stimuli.

  • Purchase or create your Token Board. You can use any magnetic surface; however, if you're using a white board, make sure it includes boxes that represent unearned tokens.

  • Pro tip: Depending on your child's age or skill level, start with four available spots, and—before you begin teaching— place two tokens on the board so that there are only two left to earn. This gives you the opportunity to work up to earning four tokens without having to buy or create a new token system.

  • Decide and gather content to teach/quiz your child. Ways to earn tokens can vary greatly, depending on your child's needs. Some children may be working on appropriate greetings and receive a token when they independently say, "Hello" when a new person enters the room. Other children may be working on transitions and receive a token when they move from a preferred activity, like playing outside, to a less preferred activity, like taking a bath, without any tears or challenging behavior.

  • Have your child choose what they will exchange their tokens for once earned from the preferred items or activities you have gathered or listed. Preferred items or activities can be things like goldfish crackers, time jumping on the trampoline, a trip to the park or watching a favorite movie. Place that activity next to the card that reads: "I am working for:"

  • Place tokens on the token board after each correct response or behavior.

  • Once all tokens have been earned, the child may immediately exchange them for the item or activity they previously chose.

Token boards are a great tool for children and teens whether they have autism spectrum disorder or not but this tool in particular been mindfully designed for children with autism and offers visual support to promote understanding cause and effect, developing the skill of waiting, and encourages healthy transitions. A token board can be helpful with academics, as well, alongside tasks like toilet training or household chores. The options are truly endless!

Check out our 3-in-1 Visual Support Set - Home Edition to purchase tools that can help your child. Want to learn more about Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy and how it might be able to help your child with autism? Give us a call at 833-825-5246 or email us at for more information. We’re here to help!

For further reading:

Fiske, K. E., Isenhower, I. W., Bamond, M. J., Delmolino, L., & Sloman, K. N. (2015). Assessing the value of token reinforcement for individuals with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 48(2), 448-453.