Token Economies: General Guidelines

4. Administering Backup Reinforcers

How often should individuals be given an opportunity to exchange their tokens for backup reinforcers? Sarafino (1996) suggests that one factor to consider is the intellectual ability of the people in the token economy. He advises that lower functioning individuals, such as very young children and developmentally disabled persons, have access to the backup reinforcers at least twice a day. The stage of the program might also matter. Recall that Joe first had the opportunity to exchange tokens every day, and over time, based on his improvement, he was to be switched to a weekly system. In this way, Joe would be gradually weaned from the token economy before being released from the group home.

What about the specific time and place for token exchange? As Miltenberger (1997) explains:

"This process may vary depending on the specific nature of the token economy for a particular program. In some cases, the token store may be open for hours at a time, and individuals can choose when they want to come and make a purchase with their tokens. Sometimes there is no token store at all. Rather, the individual identifies a specific activity or privilege and makes the arrangement with the staff running the program." (p. 446)