A token system refers to a system that is used to reward any positive behavior. In the educational setup, a token system is used to provide the children with positive reinforcement by awarding the children tokens for completing any particular tasks or behaving in a particular desired manner. The token system is essential in strengthening the behavior if individuals and enhancing the frequency to which these individuals behave in a desired manner. Fiske, Isenhower, Bamond, Delmolino, Sloman, & LaRue, (2015), define tokens as a 'symbol' that can be used to exchange goods and services. In a nutshell, tokens are used as a payment method for children who complete the assigned tasks and later use these tokens to acquire desired items.
The token system operates in four basic stages. In the first stage, the child has no tokens and hence cannot access any desired items. In the second phase, the child participates in the desired behaviors commonly known as the "target behaviors." In the third phase, the child is ten awarded tokens for engaging in these desired behaviors. Finally, the child can trade the tokens to acquire the desired items or actions also known as "backup reinforcers." The tokens can be lost when the child depicts an undesirable behavior. Therefore, a token system not only enhances desirable behavior but also helps to reduce cases or undesirable behavior (Kroeger & Sorensen, 2010).
A Token System for Children with Autism
Following the brief overview of the toke system, the paper thus focuses on a token system for individuals with autism. Similar to the education set up, a token system can also be used in people with autism as a way to enhance verbal skills. Autism is a disorder that affects the neural system and is usually characterized by impairment in social interactions and verbal communication (Kroeger & Sorensen, 2010). In the token system, the will utilize a token system where the children with autism are expected to complete a verbal test to earn tokens. For instance, the child is given a test with 7 questions, if he/she answers 5 correctly; then, they are awarded tokens in form of marks.
As discussed above, for the child to acquire, they have to complete a specific task and in this case, answering the questions in the token system. The tokens earned have no value by themselves but they have to be exchanged later with something else. The token system thus operates as the typical money system in the economy. When a person is employed, they are supposed to complete their duties and responsibilities after which they are paid salaries. These salaries are later used in exchange with other desirable items such as food, luxury, and other benefits. In the case, an individualized system is relevant to accelerate the learning progress for these students.
The system incorporates target behaviors which refer to the specific actions that these students will undertake to gain tokens (Charlop-Christy & Haymes, 1998). In this case, the target behavior requires the students to answer 5 correct questions out of the seven questions presented in the token system. Also, backup reinforcers are a significant component of the token system. It refers to the desirable items, privileges, meaningful things, or other activities that can be exchanged with the tokens earned. They can be in the form of sweets, toys, food, luxury, or other benefits that appeal and motivate the person. Thus, a successful toke system is dependent on the degree to which the backup reinforcers can motivate the student to continue exhibiting a desirable behavior. In the case of autism children, the backup reinforcers will be candy sweets, toys, and free time to play games.
A System for Exchanging the Tokens
As it is the basic principle of the token system that for the tokens earned, the individuals can exchange the tokens and in turn acquire desirable benefits and meaningful items. The exchange rate is usually predetermined before participating in the system. Outlining the time and the place where the exchange is expected take place is essential to ensure that the entire process runs smoothly (Charlop-Christy & Haymes, 1998). When participants are aware of their expected reinforcers, it acts as a motivation towards maintaining a desirable behavior. In the case, the ratio of exchange will entail exchanging one token (mark) for every correct response they provide. Further, the student is required to earn at least ten tokens to acquire a backup reinforcer. The exchange procedure would be conducted immediately the student earned the 10 tokens required to obtain a reinforcer and it was done in the classroom.
However, the rate of exchange is dependent on the value, demand, and the attractiveness of the backup reinforcer. The exchange ratio will, therefore, follow a progressive ratio schedule to determine the number of tokens to be exchanged with a particular backup reinforcer. If the backup reinforcer is of high value or it is highly attractive, then, the value of the token should also be high as well. It is also a motivating factor since if the ratio is set very low; then, the participants will not be motivated to earn tokens because when with low levels of tokens they can acquire backup reinforcers. Similarly, if the exchange ratio is set very high, it can easily discourage the participants since they feel that they may never achieve the required tokens to acquire the backup reinforcers (Fiske et al., 2015).
The Procedures Utilized To Dispense and Exchange Tokens
The primary principle acting as guidance in this process is engaging in desirable behaviors to earn tokens. It means that the children have to answer five correct questions to earn one token in each right response. In the beginning, the children will be having no tokens and hence they cannot get access to meaningful items such as sweets and getting time to play with the toys. They will participate in the process by pointing five correct responses from the token board and hence earn five tokens. These tokens can later be exchanged with sweets as backup reinforcers. Nevertheless, one has to acquire at least ten tokens t access these items. Therefore, immediately the child attains 10 tokens, they are bound to acquire back up reinforcers as trade in for the tokens.
Procedures to Follow When Token Requirements Are Not Met
More often, it is not guaranteed that these children will attain the required value of token to access the backup reinforcers. Besides, Fiske et al., (2015), present a case scenario of two students Annie and James who upon being imposed to the token system did not meet the requirements. In such a case, there is a need to establish as a predetermined action for not meeting the requirement and a response cot is relevant for this procedure. A response cost refers to the terminology explaining the negative punishment for the participants that engage in undesirable behavior. It entails scrapping off the backup reinforcement that the child expects to acquire. It is achieved by creating a rule that upon engaging in any negative behavior, one is bound to lose five tokens. Losing the number of tokens thus limits the children from accessing the reinforcers. They have to work harder and in this case, it means engaging in desirable behavior to earn more tokens that will allow them to access the reinforcers. Response costs are very significant while executing a token system since they act as a negative punishment that helps to reduce the probability that the negative behavior may appear in the future.
The primary goal of a token system is to promote desirable behavior and reduce the occurrence of the undesirable behavior. A fading toke system is essential to ensure that the children adapt to the desired behavior without depending on the backup reinforcers. According to Charlop-Christy & Haymes, (1998), in the token system, more tokens are awarded at the beginning of the process decreases with time. It is because, in the beginning, the students are attentive to participate in the desired behaviors to acquire more tokens but as they continue to learn these behaviors, the chances to earn more tokens reduce. It is important to reduce the value of the tokens so that the students can understand the value of tokens, hence learn how to display this desirable behavior without necessarily relying on the token reinforcement. It entails increasing the number of tokens required to acquire a backup reinforcement as time progresses. Also, as a way to enhance the fading process, it is also essential to include some reinforcers such as praising the participants for becoming proficient either in verbal communication or social interaction since it helps motivate them to continue exhibiting the behavior (Kroeger & Sorensen, 2010).
Charlop-Christy, M. H., & Haymes, L. K. (1998). Using objects of obsession as token reinforcers for children with autism. Journal Of Autism And Developmental Disorders, 28(3), 189-198. doi: 0162-3257W0600-O18WI5.0(MI
Fiske, K. E., Isenhower, R. W., Bamond, M. J., Delmolino, L., Sloman, K. N., & LaRue, R. H. (2015). Assessing the value of token reinforcement for individuals with autism. Journal Of Applied Behavior Analysis, 48(2), 448-453. doi: 10.1002/jaba.207
Kroeger, K., & Sorensen, R. (2010). A parent training model for toilet training children with autism. Journal Of Intellectual Disability Research, 54(6), 556-567. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2010.01286.
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