Setting Up a Token Economy

Categories: Interventions | Resources

Last year we had a kick butt token economy that rocks my freaken world. It is amazing the power of some small strips of construction paper once properly conditioned. My kids are literally addicted to them. They are point hungry. They want more and more. It’s insatiable. And I love it. Let’s rewind to last year and let me give you a small glimpse into a before and after shot of my morning group. Before: the room is already loud (I have 13 students & 5 adults in my class at all times), I am trying to teach a difficult, new skill to my group of active little preteens, and I spend half the time redirecting my group (sit down, pay attention, get started, participate…). Ugh – I am sick of my own voice. Plus I’m sick of hearing all my paras do the same in their groups. Fast forward a few weeks and one flipping awesome token economy later – After: we get started on our new lesson, the room is significantly quieter, when students’ attention start to drift, I quietly pass a small green paper to one student and the other heads literally whip to attention. One student offers to fill my water bottle for me. Another compliments my great choice in noun vs. verb activity. My one student who used to be the sloooowest worker ever – I now barely have enough work to keep busy. Seriously – this is no exaggeration. I wouldn’t do that to you. My students are obsessed. It is like  magic wand of awesomeness.

Check out some snapshots –

We store our points in this system:

The Autism Helper The Autism Helper


Our reinforcer store is a dry erase menu – so it can be easily changed:

The Autism Helper


The key to the success of the token economy are correct initial setup and implementation. Token economies are so often used incorrectly. Things like taking baseline data, specifically outlining how to earn/lose points, and visuals will MAKE your token economy the bomb. No lies.

My product on TpT – Token Economy Setup Kit:

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This resource will guide you through setting up a classroom token economy in an easy to implement step by step way. This product includes editable labels for storing tokens or points, baseline data sheet, direct rules for earning/losing points, visual token economy rules, and display for reinforcers available for purchase. All resources are included in both PDF & powerpoint versions. So all pages are editable and can be easily adapted to add your students’ names or specific behaviors your classroom is working on This packet includes detailed instructions including photos on how to set this up effectively.

Check out the video product preview:


  1. Hi. So when your kids cash in their points for computer or ipad time, how long are you letting them use the computer and ipad?

  2. When are you students cashing in their points? Is it daily, weekly, hourly?

  3. Would like to hear answers to above, but this is perfect timing…thank you!!!

  4. I give them about 10-15 minutes depending on our schedule!

  5. At first there was a scheduled time – but now it’s a little more fluid. When they have enough points to purchase what they would like – they can use the points during different periods of down time (usually right before lunch or right before the bus). Hope this helps!

  6. Who gives the points or takes away points, the teacher, paras or both?

  7. Both! It works best if the whole team is part of the behavior plan implementation! Plus it’s way too much work to do on your own. Great question 🙂

  8. Hi Sasha! We just started implementing a token economy, so still learning 🙂 I got to 3 tasks to work on (washing hands after toilet, put his underpants/pants on after toilet/shower without running out of the bathroom, and doing sight words work. We set the rules and for each task he can earn one token (we use a small plastic token). We made a ” token-bank” a little box where he can store the tokens. Het gets the concept of storing the tokens in the bank however The thing is… now i realised, we can’t see how many tokens are in the “bank”. Since he is already used to the concept, should i start to tally as well? or should I just open the bank at a set time and than count with him together how many tokens he has?
    Another question, Once he masters a task how do we slowly fade the tokens out for that, otherwise he might be expecting tokens all the time when he washes his hands 🙂
    And can we just keep adding new tasks all the time on the “how do I earn my token” board?
    For the time being we have only 2 prices as we wanted to start small. So he can earn ipad time (3 tokens) and a piece of chocolate (2 tokens) the thing is, he is earning that very easily, but he wants his ipad more than 1 time a day …. sigh…… Once he has”bought” his price, can he buy the price again the next time when he exchanges the tokens? Now when we have exchange time, we match the real tokens on his price board, so he can see that he got that price already, and also because he loves matching, so i thought it’s a good reinforcer for him to participate in the whole concept. So incase he is allowed to exchange for ipad more than once, i should remove the matched tokens afterwards..
    Sorry for all the questions, love to hear from you!

  9. Hi Desiree! I love this! I love how you focused your skill building in a few areas and that he is getting the concept of putting it in the bank. I think you can have a set time to open the bank and count it. I’d stick with that since that is what you have been doing. Then you can compare how many he has with how much the reinforcers cost. Does that make sense?

    And yes you are are so correct – once he mastered the skills – fade the tokens!! Once he is successful with the task maybe he doesn’t get the token until he does one more (like sits and waits for next activity, etc.) also always pair praise with the token and after he has been successful with the task on his own, only give praise and not the token. That way he is still get some reinforcement (praise) but not the token anymore. Then start giving tokens for building other behaviors.

    Yes, keep adding behaviors to the how to earn tokens board!

    Love that you are keeping the reinforcer menu simple. I would think yes, he can keep working for iPad. Once he ‘bought’ the iPad once, he can do other behaviors/skills to earn tokens for iPad again. You can also start to make the iPad more expensive once he is getting successful – so he will have to do more to get the iPad.

    Let me know if this all makes sense and if you have any other questions!

  10. Hi Sasha! Thanks so much! I have a question about the praise…. We do celebrate when he does the task “eg. put underpants on properly after toilet use” and we mention “hey ! you got a token for that! but I noticed he gets kind of irritable about all the attention around this whole “token-thing” 🙂 Ugggg….. maybe he is thinking “i know all this stuff already, don’t make a federal case out of it 🙂 !” We have been watching him for a few days now and he gets pretty irritable over it, so maybe we were thinking that we just hand over the token (he will run to his token-bank already (he got the concept) and than after a few minutes we try to sit down together and chat about it how awesome he did this….. etc…. What would you advice? Would that be a good idea? And than still remind him that he gets token for putting underpants/washing hands etc. to buy his Ipad time etc. ? Trying to figure out the correct way, as what I understood from your posts, it has to be done properly otherwise it won’t work at the end…..Thanks again!

  11. Great point Desiree. For some kids getting too much attention can actually be aversive because the social interactions are often a demand for our students. As long as he is engaging in the desired behavior, I would try just a quick praise and giving the token and then moving on and seeing how he reacts to that!

  12. Thanks a lot Sasha, will try that one!


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