Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


45th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2019

Event Details

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Symposium #215
CE Offered: BACB
Evaluations and Applications of Token Economies
Sunday, May 26, 2019
9:00 AM–10:50 AM
Hyatt Regency West, Ballroom Level, Regency Ballroom B
Area: AUT; Domain: Applied Research
Chair: Gabriella Rachal Van Den Elzen (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute)
Discussant: Jason C. Bourret (New England Center for Children)
CE Instructor: Gabriella Rachal Van Den Elzen, M.S.

Token economies are tools used in a variety of applied programming; however, little research has evaluated the efficacy of procedures to establish token economies or the procedures necessary to train service providers to implement token economies. The purpose of this symposium is to discuss evaluations and applications of token economies across several settings and participant groups. In the first presentation, Dawson, Lerman, and Shillings examined the effects of paired versus unpaired tokens on responding with typically developing children. In the second presentation, Van Den Elzen, Kodak, Halbur, Niland, and Bergmann compared the effects of two chaining methods on the acquisition of clinically-relevant skills with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In the third paper, Monaghan, Kisamore, Vladescu, Reeve, and Novak evaluated the effects of video-based instruction to train parents of children with ASD to implement a token economy. In the final paper, Kirkpatrick, Rehfeld, Rivera, Akers, and Sulak evaluated the efficacy of an intervention to teach undergraduate students to implement a token economy with children with literacy deficits. The discussant will describe the contributions of these studies to the extant research and suggest potential ways to further develop this area of research.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): BST, teacher training, token economy, token pairing
Target Audience:

The target audience members for this symposium are practitioners and researchers.

Learning Objectives: Identify conditions under which token economies may be established. Describe strategies for training teachers and parents to implement token economies. Summarize and discuss the current status of research on token economies.

Persistence of Responding in a Token Economy With Paired and Unpaired Backup Reinforcers

DESIREE DAWSON (University of Houston-Clear Lake; Texana Behavior Center; Marquette University), Dorothea C. Lerman (University of Houston-Clear Lake; Texana Behavior Center), Courtney Breann Shillings (University of Houston Clear Lake: Texana Behavior Center)

Clinicians commonly use token economies in applied settings, yet there is surprisingly little research on the mechanisms that make token economies successful. Previous research has produced mixed results on the components that impact the success of token economies as well as the durability of responding in token economies over time. The current study assessed the persistence of responding in a token economy across two settings. The instructor in one setting paired tokens with backup reinforcers while the instructor in the other setting did not. Participants were two typically developing 3 and 4-year-old boys. The results showed that the absence of backup reinforcers in the unpaired setting did not affect the acquisition or maintenance of responding for either participant. However, the participants showed a preference for instruction in the setting with back-up reinforcers. These results suggest that the tokens served as generalized conditioned reinforcers but may also have had discriminative effects. These findings have important implications for the maintenance and generalization of responding that is maintained by token reinforcement.


Comparing Forward- and Backward-Chaining Methods for Establishing Token Economies

GABRIELLA RACHAL VAN DEN ELZEN (University of Nebraska Medical Center's Munroe-Meyer Institute), Tiffany Kodak (Marquette University), Mary Halbur (Marquette University), Haven Sierra Niland (University of North Texas), Samantha Bergmann (University of North Texas )

Tokens are stimuli that are accumulated and exchanged for preferred stimuli. Though token economies are used in a variety of educational, residential, and clinical settings, the extant literature provides little guidance on how to condition tokens and establish a token economy. We compared two methods for increasing the exchange production schedule in token economies with a two boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In the forward-chaining condition, only one token was initially placed on the board. In the backward-chaining condition, the therapist pre-filled the token board and left only the locations that would be filled within the session open. In both conditions, we increased the exchange-production schedule by one token until a terminal schedule of five tokens was reached. We then compared the acquisition of a new skill across both token conditions, an FR 5 schedule for preferred items, and an FR 1 schedule for preferred items. We found minimal differences across conditions for one participant. The second participant acquired skills more quickly with the backward-chained tokens. These data add to the extant literature by demonstrating two efficacious ways to establish token economies with children with ASD.


Using Video-Based Instruction to Train Parents to Implement a Token Economy

Shannon Monaghan (Caldwell University), April N. Kisamore (Hunter College), Jason C. Vladescu (Caldwell University), Sharon A. Reeve (Caldwell University), Joseph Novak (REED Academy), ANNIE STAUFFER (Hunter College)

Noncompliance can be a concern for some children with autism and can affect their interactions with their parents. A token economy may be an effective and easily transportable strategy for parents to provide reinforcement to their children for compliance with directions. The results of this study (a) systematically replicated Spiegel, Kisamore, Vladescu, and Karsten (2016) by training parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to implement guided compliance and (b) evaluated the effects of video-based instruction to train parents of children with autism to implement a token economy to reinforce compliance and to decrease the need for the presence of a trainer by incorporating a self-scoring checklist. Participants were taught to correctly implement a token economy and evaluated their own performance via video recordings. These results provide clinicians with a means of teaching parents of children with ASD to implement a token economy and decrease the need for the presence of a trainer by incorporating a self-scoring checklist.


Evaluating the Effects of Behavioral Skills Training With Pre-Service Teachers

MARIE KIRKPATRICK (Baylor University), David Rehfeld (Baylor University), Jessica Akers (Baylor University), Gabriela Juanita Rivera (Baylor University), Tracey Sulak (Baylor University)

Behavioral skills training (BST) is a systematic teaching procedure aligned with the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA). BST has empirical support as for its efficacy with populations such as individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). However, research regarding its use as a total package is lacking with educational staff such as teachers. Furthermore, research regarding its use as a teaching procedure for pre-service teachers is almost non-existent. We used BST to teach five undergraduate students enrolled in a special education field based course to implement a token economy using a fixed interval system of reinforcement with children who have literacy deficits, including those with special needs. A multiple baseline design across participant teaching dyads (a co-teaching environment) was used to assess implementation accuracy. Results indicated that BST was an effective teaching procedure and social validity measures indicated BST was agreeable with participants. Limitations and needs for future research are discussed.




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