Play Schedules and Token Economies

Routine is everything when your child is on the spectrum, and summer doesn’t always offer a lot of routine! Lack of routine and boredom leads to meltdowns, tantrums, and lots of whining in general. It can be so difficult to entertain young children on the spectrum, especially if they have severe ADHD like mine.

Jonathan was in behavior therapy for four years (best decision we ever made!). A few years back I asked them to help me create a system to help with the summer backslide. They helped me create several systems that we introduced one by one, but they all work wonderfully together!

Subscribe below to download the Token Economy toolkit and the Independent Schedule toolkit!

The Independent Play Schedule

The goal of the independent play schedule is to help your child pick 3-5 activities and complete them on their own. They can pick new activities and repeat throughout the day!

Keys for implementation:

  1. The whole schedule should be completed in 20 min to start with. Gradually lengthen by adding more tasks or adjusting the time in the instructions.
  2. I always include one highly preferred activity and one less preferred activity.
  3. Make sure your child helps you choose the reward. It could be a food or activity based reward- whatever motivates your child.
  4. Once an activity is complete your child can either write an X in the box or velcro on a token. For my daughter we use My Little Pony and for my son we use Mario tokens (both included in tool kit download). We like to store our tokens on the back of the schedule.
  5. I include some task cards in the download, but you can find some more at Natural Beach Living. This site is such a great resource!

The Token Economy

We use a token economy in our home to help encourage good behavior, independent play, chore completion, etc.

Reward Vs. Punishment…

I am all about natural and logical consequences. (If you haven’t read Parenting with Love and Logic you should do so immediately.) So when I created the rules for our token economy I wanted built in consequences in addition to the rewards. The biggest rule is “Hitting, lying, potty accidents, ignoring directions, and other bad behavior can cost you tokens. Mommy and Daddy will decide when and if you lose tokens”.

How they earn tokens…

  1. We created a list of things they can each do and value of each task in tokens. You may have to play around with the values depending on the motivation level of your child. For one child we used text and the other we used pictures based on reading level. For example: They could pick up the bathroom for 2 tokens.
  2. Recently we adapted this to a chore chart instead of a list. It gives us more freedom to adjust. They have to do daily tasks to earn screens. If they complete all the weekly tasks they earn 5 tokens for that week. The third column has “extra” chores they can do to earn 2 tokens per chore. We also offer extra chores on the fly and they choose whether or not they accept the offer.
  3. We have a specialty golden mushroom token that is worth 15 tokens. It is a big reward and given randomly when we feel the kids have done something extra special. I wanted to be sure they weren’t doing nice things for the token only, but because it feels good. So we have a rule that they can’t ask for these tokens.

How they spend tokens…

We created a “store” for each child. They can spend tokens at any time to buy one of their store items. Over the years I have adjusted this a few times and my children have requested items to include in their stores.

What I love about this concept is they are learning about spending and saving their resources. They learn cause and effect and they have to work for their rewards.

When they turn in tokens for an activity that needs to be scheduled out (ex: adventurland, bowling, swimming, etc), then I give them a “coupon”. The coupon stays on their token board until we can redeem it.

We also use coupons for big items like a new video game. Our video game costs 75 tokens, but it’s difficult to save that long. So we split it into 5 coupons and my son can redeem tokens for coupons. He likes to purchase coupons to save up for several big items at once. This translates to having several savings accounts at once.


Subscribe below to download the Token Economy toolkit and the Independent Schedule toolkit!

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