Exploring the Use of Token Economies for Students on the Autism Spectrum: A Brief Review of the Literature

This issue of NASET’s Autism Spectrum Disorder series was written by Zachary Carter-Best. Token economies are a commonly used behavioral intervention in self-contained classrooms for students with autism spectrum disorder. While instructors may be familiar with implementing a token economy, many may not understand some of the nuances presented in this research. Token economies are shown to increase rates of attending, on-task behavior, and rates of responding, while decreasing challenging behaviors. One study, however, did show no significant difference in responding for token economies as compared to primary reinforcement, but this study does not consider the effect this will have on rates of reinforcer satiation. Future researchers should investigate how different levels of student interest in the token economy will affect long-term rates of responding and attending, as well as rates of satiation for preferred reinforcers in token conditions compared to primary reinforcement conditions.

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