The Incredible 5 Point Scale The Incredible 5 Point Scale Kari Dunn Buron - A pretty good teacher from Minnesota

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When My Worries Get Too Big!
When My Worries Get Too Big
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A 5 Is Against The Law!
A 5 is Against the Law!
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A "5" Could Make Me Lose Control!
A "5" Could Make Me Lose Control!
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More Sweet Scale Ideas

Anxiety Curve
The Anxiety Curve
Buron and Curtis

The anxiety curve model has been used by Kari and Mitzi for almost a decade to visually illustrate the power of anxiety and its influence on student behavior. Below is an example of how Mitzi uses this model to teach educators and parents to process explosive incidents:

Practical Use of the Anxiety Curve
One of my favorite, and a very practical use of the anxiety curve, is in a worksheet format. I sometimes call it the behavior plan 'cheat sheet' or cliff notes. Simply, empty text boxes are placed beside each number (5 point scale of course) on the curve for the author to describe the most important details of each 'level' of anxiety. This worksheet then can be easily shared not only with teachers, but parents, babysitters, paraprofessionals, substitutes and anyone else who is significant to the individual with autism. There is a similar but slightly different worksheet for school (teacher/student) and home (parent/child). There is an accompanying instruction sheet that goes along with the worksheet. Box '1' is meant to identify typical anxiety producing triggers such as loud noises, illness, late bus, etc. Box '2' holds basic information about how the person looks, what they might say/do when their anxiety is starting to increase. It is also a place to direct the person to the individual's calming sequence and or other relaxation strategies that are known to be (at least somewhat) effective. Boxes '3' and '4' are primarily for the caregiver to assist with the calming process in a very quiet and calm manner. The individual with autism at a '4' is not able to manage many choices or decision-making. Box '5' represents the crisis or most heightened stage of the individual's anxiety. It is important for people to know what this might entail, so they can respond in a positive and effective manner. Such as, does the person run away; pull the fire alarm; hurt themselves; etc. It is also a place to identify how the person with autism feels the most protected and safe. The 'other side' of the crisis on the curve gives room for describing what the calming individual may feel or need, eventually returning to the 'typical' daily routine.

I often use this worksheet at meetings when learning about a new student, or when consulting with parents or teachers about a student having difficulty. It is also a tool I have used with the individual with autism when helping them understand their own behavior, or having them help me understand them.

This use of the anxiety curve reinforces the belief that the individual's 'tough' behavior is a manifestation of their anxiety and that a person with autism is often in a heightened state of anxiety when compared to people without autism even during less stressful times.

Finally, the worksheet has an anxiety curve drawn for the caregiver. This is a visual reminder that we too go through increased stress when people we care about are highly anxious. It is meant to prompt us to take care of our own needs so that when it is imperative that the individual with autism has assistance from someone they can trust, that we can indeed provide it.

Click for a larger view of this image.
Anxiety Curve

Student Stressor Interview for Proactive Planning

Threatening Behavior and Asperger Syndrome


Color scales - Download and edit
Color Scale #1 (Word format)
Color Scale #2 (Word format)

A possible dating scale
Download (.PDF format -21 Kb)

If you meet a girl and you are interested in getting to know her better, you might want to think about what level of this scale you are at and what level she is at. There are many different kinds of friendships. You might feel like a 5 and she might only feel like a 3. If you are unsure about how she feels, it is a good idea to just start with #2 or #3.


I want to date you and we have agreed that we really care about each other. We both want to date each other some more. Exchange addresses and visit at our homes.


I would like to date you. Go for a "meet-up" date. Meet at some agreed on location. Exchange phone numbers.


I am interested in e-mailing you from time to time and see if it develops. Exchange e-mails.


I am interested in being friends but not dating.


No interest. Say goodbye.


Petal's Control Scale
Download (.PDF format -794 Kb)


How does this feel?

What makes me feel this way?

How can I tell?


I could lose control!

When loud talking and laughing keep going. School bells and the smell of fish.

Too late!! I am screaming!

Emergency!! Stop talking. Close eyes. Deep breaths.


This can really upset me

When the boys all laugh at one time. When I can't do my work. When I make a mistake.

I start swearing out loud. I say mean things to other people. I tear up my work.

Take a walk out of the room!


This can make me nervous

When I hear the boys talking louder. When the chairs or desks scrape on the floor. When someone laughs out loud.

I say shut up real quietly. I start staring at the boys. My brain starts thinking about the boys too much!

Take card to teacher


This sometimes bothers me

The sound of rain on the roof. When I can't have my turn right away. Walking on the power walk.

My stomach kind of hurts. I think things aren't fair. I start repeating the TV Guide schedule.


This never bothers me

Doing my work. Reading teen magazines. Looking at ads in the paper. Watching TV.

My brain is relaxed. I am smiling. My mouth is relaxed. I am happy.


My Interaction Scale
Download (.PDF format -25 Kb)


What does this look like?

How does it make other people feel?

What is a likely outcome?


Unwanted touching and kisses.


This is not good. Staff will feel unsafe working with you and other students will need to report this behavior to an adult. This is against the law for adults!


Following someone around and acting like you want to kiss them

Very uncomfortable, Unsafe.

This can make other people afraid of you. It is unlikely anyone would feel safe being around you.


Blowing kisses to someone outside of your family; staring at someone for long periods of time.

Uncomfortable and weird. This is confusing to most people.

People might not know if you are nice or mean. They might decide to stay away from you.


High 5's; saying good morning; smiling at another person

Good. These interactions make others feel good about being with me.

Making friends; favorite staff wanting to work with you. People wanting to sit next to you.


No interaction at all

Others might think you don't like them.

It would be hard to make friends this way.


Printable business card 5-point scalesDownload a printable .PDF file of 5-point scale business cards
(14 Kb)






Small scales downloadable fileDownload a printable .PDF file of Small Scales
(295 Kb)


This is an example of a scale that could be used with a person who either never asks for help or asks for too much help.

My "Help" Scale
Download (.PDF format -206 Kb)


Impossible to handle!
Not ready


Really hard for me.
I will need lots of help to work on this.


Hard for me.
I can try to work on this.


With a plan, I can do this on my own.


No sweat - easy as pie.
I can do this totally on my own!



Make small laminated scales for staff or parents to carry with them to prompt the person to remember the scale lesson. You can hold up the small scale and touch the number you think the person is at, then slide your finger down the scale to the 2 or 1 level.

Kari and Mitzi


Create a schedule piece using the program Boardmaker (Mayer Johnson) indicating that it is time for the person to rate themselves on their anxiety scale. By scheduling times to "check in", you can proactively teach the use of the scale.

Lynette Schultz, White Bear Lake, MN

Danny's Scale



Danny's Self-Management Scale
Download Word Format Document - 36 KB

The following are 3 examples of how a colleague of ours, Tara Tuchel, from Hudson Wisconsin, has used the scale with her students.

The first scale includes a cartoon character next to each number with a talking bubble that the student can fill in with what he might be saying when he is "at a 2". On this scale, the student also fills in the right side by defining the level of his worries.

The next scale is a sweet example of how Tara used the worksheet idea with a young student with Asperger Syndrome.

The third example is how Tara used the anxiety curve with a student with Asperger Syndrome to illustrate his anxiety. Tara started by talking to her student about the curve and showing him how it worked. He was very interested. She explained that they could identify ways to help his body/anxiety level get from a 3 or 4 back down to a 1. He said, "yeah, it's like a road and I'm the car and you want me to go in reverse sometimes". He said, "sometimes I can just put myself in reverse and sometimes it may be icy and I could just slide back to a 1..." The roadway analogy helped to bring in the student's interests and increase his motivation to use the scale.

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