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How to Use a Reward System for Children With Autism

All children like to be rewarded for their behavior and good deeds, but there is one huge difference. A child on the spectrum views rewards much differently than how we see them. Applied behavior analysis, or ABA, therapy uses the concept of positive reinforcers as a tool for children with autism and even adults on the spectrum to encourage building skills and schedules. If you have a child on the spectrum or one with a highly complex learning disability or special learning needs, ABA reinforcers can help encourage and guide them easier. 

Behavioral therapists, parents, and teachers use ABA reinforcers and sensory reinforcement to encourage particular behaviors. We are providers of autism home support services through the videos available from Blue Parachute. We have seen the reward system for autism successfully work on a wide range of children and adults on the spectrum.

The reward system for autism can be incredibly effective depending on the types of reward you are offering. Using highly motivating rewards or offering the choice of reward can vary from person to person. But with enough persistence, it can become a successful autism reinforcement.

Autism Reinforcers: Types of Reward Systems 

Reward-based teaching, such as ABA reinforcers, can benefit a wide range of people with ASD, but it is imperative to know that there can be some downsides. When using the reward system for autism, children can soon become accustomed to receiving rewards for completing specific tasks. It is imperative to note that children with autism may have a tough time separating the task from the reward once they have been conditioned to expect a prize after completion.

Depending on the child, there are different approaches and ABA reinforcer ideas that may work well for them. Here are some reward systems for autism that may help your child complete specific tasks and projects. 

Token Economies 

Our Licensed and Certified Behavior Therapists believe that this is one of the simplest approaches to reward-based teaching in autism. The primary goal of a ‘token economy’ is for the child on the spectrum to earn some form of token each time a task, activity, or successful transition gets completed. Offering a goal for when the child or adult on the spectrum earns enough gold stars that win a special prize at the end. 

Token economies are a common form of ABA reinforcer that encourages desired behaviors among children on the spectrum. For example, if the child is sitting still in their chair or completing a specific task, they will earn a token or prize. Some forms of tokens can be: 

  • Word of praise
  • Sticker
  • Gold star 
  • Stamps
  • Real coins 

When they complete receiving X amount of reinforcement tokens, they get rewarded with a bigger prize or privilege. Ensure that the system is attainable for children on the spectrum, so they will be excited to participate. Additionally, they recognize that they have earned the reward for positive achievement. 


Checklists are another great ABA reinforcer idea for older children on the spectrum. Checklists are a great way to help a child with their organization skills and can be used to increase awareness or positive behaviors. Put the checklist somewhere that they can view and refer to often. This will serve as a reminder of their tasks and goals.

Offering anywhere from 5 to 10 different activities that you and your child agreed on. Be sure to include a portion at the bottom of the checklist for them to write their big reinforcer down on. Once they complete each task, they can check it off those lists and begin earning their way to the big reinforcer.

List of Positive Reinforcers for Children & Students on the Spectrum 

It is no secret that motivation is critical in a child with autism’s success, but finding the right positive enforcer can be tricky. Here is a list of ABA reinforcer ideas to help your child adopt the reward system tactic. These are some of the most common rewards for an autistic child. 

  • Hershey Kisses
  • Popcorn
  • Grapes
  • Marbles
  • Water Beads 
  • Stress balls
  • Toy cars
  • Legos
  • Play-Doh
  • Stuffed animals
  • Coins
  • Playing cards
  • Poker chips 

Some activities that can act as the primary reinforcer for completing their list or token can be: 


  • Playing on the iPad for 30 min 
  • Working on a puzzle 
  • Coloring
  • Going to the playground
  • Visiting their preferred place
  • Going to the beach
  • Dancing 
  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Having a playdate 
  • Extending TV time 
  • Getting something from a treasure box

Autism Resource Center for Children on the Spectrum 

We pride ourselves on providing parents the resources needed to help raise a child or adult on the autism spectrum. We have a robust collection of videos available from Blue Parachute, all created by Licensed and Certified Behavior Therapists

Our videos provide in-depth lessons for that extra support at home, school, or in communities. We have subscription pricing available and many plans to select from, which helps many, including locations without resources, get the support they need to achieve more positive outcomes with their child on the autism spectrum. 

For more help with finding ABA reinforcer ideas and more information on using a reward system for children with autism, use our online form and contact us today.


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