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The 5-Point Scale is an amazingly simple but useful tool to teach students to regulate a wide variety of behaviors. Click through for more information and resources to use it in your classroom for behavior management.

The Incredible 5-Point Scale: Review and Tools

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The 5-Point Scale is an amazingly simple but useful tool to teach students to regulate a wide variety of behaviors. Click through for more information and resources to use it in your classroom for behavior management.Have you ever used the Incredible 5-Point Scale?  This is a very simple tool that can be used to teach self-regulation.  It was originally designed for children with autism, but it is highly effective with anybody of any age.  It’s simply a 5-point scale for regulating.  It was created by Kari Dunn Buron who describes herself as a pretty good teacher from Minnesota.  Although I have not found specific research conducted on the scale itself, it is a form of self-management and similar to other self-management strategies.  Self-management is considered an evidence-based strategy by the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Consequently as a tool for implementing self-management, it would be considered evidence-based and you can learn more about self-management strategies in general through the Autism Internet Modules.

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What is it?

The 5-point scale is exactly what it sounds like.  A 5-point scale that is developed to help an individual understand and learn when emotions, voices, or whatever you are moderating is getting out of control.  It can be developed by the teacher or parent or as a collaboration between the teacher / parent and the individual with autism (or other behavioral issues).  I have used it successfully  from kindergarten through high school. And many times I think it might be useful for some “typical” adults.

Anger Management Tool

The example below was developed for a student who had difficulty managing anger.  A 1 meant everything was fine and 5 meant he was hitting, screaming and crying.  The goal was to try to recognize that he was a 2 or a 3. Then he needed to learn to bring the anger level down before it reached a 5.  To do this he could take a break, do some deep breathing, or other strategies we had rehearsed with him when he was calm.

The 5-Point Scale is an amazingly simple but useful tool to teach students to regulate a wide variety of behaviors. Click through for more information and resources to use it in your classroom for behavior management.

Why I Like the 5-Point Scale

  • Simplicity:  How difficult is it to break something down into 5 levels.  I have also simplified it with younger children or individuals with more cognitive difficulties to a 3 point scale.  I would recommend, if you simplify it, to simplify it as 1, 3, and 5 so that later you can add 2 and 4 if needed.  However, I have had folks who used a 3-point scale in the same manner.
  • Objectivity.  By rating feelings and behaviors as numbers, they aren’t labeled as good and bad.  Being angry isn’t bad and we all have been angry.  It’s what we do to express that anger and manage that anger that matters.  The 5-point scale helps individuals with difficulty learn how to manage it in an appropriate way.
  • Flexibility.  This one scale of 5 levels can be used for a wide variety of emotional management, voice levels, anxiety and even understanding other’s behavior and social awareness.  For instance,  the Incredible 5-Point Scale website has one designed for teaching dating rules.
  • Easy to Use.  The 5-point scale, once a student has learned it, gives caregivers and students a shorthand to talk about feelings.  I know teachers who model, “I’m feeling like a 3, I better take a break.”   And the scale gives the opportunity to just say to the individual, “How are you feeling?” and he or she can respond with a number.  Then no one around him has to know what that means and he doesn’t have to generate much language to express feelings of distress.
  • Link What to Do with How You Feel.  You can use the scale to help students link how they feel with actions to try to reduce their level of stress, anger, voice volume, anxiety, etc.  Simply use one of the columns to write actions in.  You can have the student generate them with you to talk about it as well.



So, that is the 5-point scale and why I like it.  Let me share some resources to use it.

The first, and most useful resource is Kari and Mitzi Curtis’ book which comes with a free CD with blank scales you can use to make your own.  The book is a treasure trove of resources for creating and using the scales in a variety of different manners.   The new and improved edition of this book goes into much more detail and has so many great examples, it is really a must-have resource for any teacher working with positive behavioral support across the ages.

The Social Behavior and Self-Management book is also a great tool if you are working with adolescents and/or adults to manage and regulate behavior in the community and job sites.  The beauty of the scale is that it can be used at any age.  This is a small book and relatively inexpensive but it has some great examples of scales appropriate for those of an older age.

The next two books, below, are designed for students to read and I have used them extensively for older students to understand how to use the scales and why it is important.

The I Can Handle Making Mistakes Behavior Toolkit has a version of the 5-Point Scale for rating the severity of the problem along with social stories, mini-5-point scales, and contingency maps.

Looking to use a version of the 5-Point Scale? You can find one in my I Can Handle Making Mistakes Behavior Toolkit!

Have you used the 5-point scale?  Please share ideas in the comments.

Autism Classroom Resources

3 thoughts on “The Incredible 5-Point Scale: Review and Tools”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this!! I wrote an IEP for one of my kids who has alot of anger and trouble regulating his emotions. I wrote the IEP with my speech path's suggestions on using a 5 point scale, I did not know much about it. I am so excited to make one and introduce it to my student. I think he will do so great with it. Thanks again.

  2. Lacey, that is great that the timing worked so well with this post. If there is anything else you would like to see covered, please let me know. I'm going to do some posts on self-calming and relaxation next week that will tie into the 5-point scale as well. Good luck with your little guy!


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