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The Five Point ScaleAs an individual on the spectrum, I love using The Five Point Scale for self-regulation. I have used it numerous times, in many different situations. One aspect I love about The Five Point Scale is that it is universal. The Scale can be used with many different topics and in many situations.

Another reason I love the scale is the simplicity of using numbers to communicate feelings. Using simple numbers allows me to be able to communicate how I am feeling to someone without having to use lots of words.  An added benefit is, if a person is already familiar with The Five Point Scale, I can communicate with them without using any words at all by simply pointing to the number that I am feeling on the scale.

The Five Point Scale helps me to self regulate. I can monitor and better manage my own behavior because I know what I need to do when I am feeling a certain number.

I am very visual and another aspect that I love about The Five Point Scale is that it is so visual. I work better with visuals, especially when I am stressed, anxious or upset.

The Five Point Scale has greatly helped me with self-regulation. It has been so helpful that I reached out to the author, Kari Dunn Buron, to tell us more about The Five Point Scale.

What is the Five Point Scale?

Dunn Buron explains, “The Incredible 5-Point scale is a system for teaching social and emotional concepts.
The main objective is to teach social and emotional information in concrete, systematic, and non-judging ways.

Students who have poor skills in the area of social thinking or emotional regulation often exhibit challenging behaviors, particularly when presented with difficult social situations.

In the scale, teachers and parents can find a very simple yet effective way to:

  • teach social rules and expectations
  • problem solve behavioral responses of others
  • trouble shoot past and future social scenarios and
  • create plans for self-management.”

A Sample Scenario

Dunn Buron provides the following example:

If a child is having problems understanding their own anxiety and the impact it might have on their tolerance for others, it can be helpful to use a scale like this:


4 = Angry – I might say or do something I regret

3 = Nervous – I can tell that I am not in total control. Things are starting to bug me.

2 = OK – Not excited but not upset either. This is a pretty good place to be.

1 = Great day – Very good day to get things done and work with other people.

Once the child gets used to labeling her feelings with numbers, she can add columns to the scale like:

“this is how my body might feel when I am at this level”


“this is what I can do when I start to feel this way”.

Dunn Buron tells us, “We have used the scale successfully with children as young as 3 years old and with adults.”

The Story Behind The Five Point Scale

“The formation of The Five Point scale was really a group effort.”, explains Dunn Buron. “There were several of us working with a boy who had difficulty understanding his voice volume. We noticed that when we tried to use traditional prompting and correction methods, he got really upset. We then figured that he was must be feeling very defensive about the issue. It occurred to us that he was responding that way because he truly did not get the concept of voice volume. We broke the concept down on a 5-Point Scale and it worked!”

Why So Successful?

Dunn Buron shares, “Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen’s Empathizing-Systemizing Learning Theory seems to support the idea of using a scale to teach social and emotional concepts. The theory suggests that individuals on the autism spectrum have a strong desire to analyze information to determine what causes what. This theory also implies that by using a system to teach difficult information, the instructor is making use of the person’s learning strength. The scale is a repetitive, predictable system for learning otherwise confusing information. It also offers a non-judging way to discuss social behavior that seems to buffer the emotional intensity of the subject matter.”

A Sequel to The Five Point Scale

With the success of the Five Point Scale, Buron co-authored another book entitled Social Behavior and Self-Management: 5-Point Scales for Adolescents and Adults.

Dunn Buron reports, “In this book, we give examples of adult scales on topics such as Relaxation, Stalking Behavior, Creating Friendships, and Dealing with Roommates.”

More Books by Kari Dunn Buron

Incredible 5-Point Scale Assisting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in Understanding Social Interactions and Controlling Their Emotional Responses

When My Worries Get Too Big! A Relaxation Book for Children Who Live with Anxiety

A 5 Could Make Me Lose Control! An activity-based method for evaluating and supporting highly anxious students

A 5 Is Against the Law! Social Boundaries: Straight Up! An honest guide for teens and young adults

Learners on the Autism Spectrum: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators

The Social Times

About Kari Dunn Buron

Kari Dunn BuronKari Dunn Buron taught in K-12 with students on the autism spectrum for 30+ years and was a founding member of the MN Autism Project. She developed an Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate program for educators at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN and has done volunteer work specific to autism in Trinidad, Tobago, Barbados, Tanzania and Ghana. In 2003, Kari received a Self-designed Bush Leadership Fellowship that allowed her to spend a year interviewing and working internationally with a number of scientists and researchers in the area of Neuroscience, Social Cognition, Education and Autism with a focus on challenging behaviors. In 2012, Kari was inducted into the Illinois State University Education Department Hall of Fame.


E-mail Interview with Kari Dunn Buron, June 9th, 2012.