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When my son JJ was 16 years old, he was suspended from high school for his impulsive behavior. His peers knew what buttons to push and it continually got him into trouble. The Incredible 5-Point Scale helped JJ regulate his feelings and behavior visually and cognitively. It took consistency with his entire educational team to help him learn this process. Now at 21, JJ has mastered this technique; he has amazing self control and is very good at problem solving. You can start at any age to teach your child this technique to curve outbursts; a tool for self control.

Diffuse a Situation 
The Incredible 5-Point Scale, written by authors Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis – two teachers from Minnesota, assist students with understanding social interactions and controlling their emotional responses. Many of us already have this technique ingrained in us when our tempers rise. The 5-point scale helps our kids learn how to defuse the situation concretely. By talking in numbers, rather than in socially and emotionally laden words, students can take control. The scales are visual and they reduce abstract ideas to simple numbers, thus matching some of the major learning characteristics of students with ASD. Authors state “The idea is that how we act, react, and interact in difficult situations depends on our ability to quickly and efficiently assess what is happening and consider the consequences of our actions. Students who lack social competence can benefit when repetitive problems are broken down into clear, concrete parts.”

Controlling Outbursts
The 5-point scale helped JJ control his outbursts. The scale helped JJ also decipher if he was feeling angry or scared. For instance, when JJ was feeling angry and his temper was rising, he would rate his emotion and then look at the planned chart to figure out what to do. You must come up with the plan on the worksheet first in order to incorporate this technique. Younger students use drawings of their faces to help them define their emotions. Older students write it out coinciding with the numbers.


On the scale at a level “1,” JJ would just recognize the emotion (angry vs scared).

If it escalated to a level “2,” the plan would be for him to draw to help soothe him.

If his anger was up to a level “3” when he felt like pacing, he could get up and get a drink of water to help him calm down.

If his anger escalated to a “4” where he felt he wanted to swear, then he could take 10 deep slow breathes to calm him.

And if it got to a level “5” where he felt he was going to explode or be out of control, then he needed to seek out a person with authority to help him defuse and solve the problem or get to a safe place.

The 5-point scale is a great tool to help control outbursts and meltdowns; a tool to help our kids self regulate.