September 19, 2012

The 5-Point Scale and Emotional Regulation

By Kari Dunn Buron

Emotional regulation can be defined as the ability to separate your emotional responses to a problem from the thinking you must perform to resolve the problem. The 5-point scale is a visual system that can help to organize a person’s thinking when working through difficult moments, particularly those that require social understanding.

Autism impacts a person’s ability to understand social information. This can involve understanding other people’s intentions, knowing how to manipulate social situations, and repairing social interactions that have gone poorly. Difficulty in social thinking can affect a person’s ability to be comfortable in social situations and cause social confusion and anxiety. Social anxiety makes it even more difficult for a person with ASD to work through big emotions. Creating a visual system for working through challenging situations can be considered a strength based approach since most individuals with autism tend learn most effectively through concrete, predictable systems (Baron-Cohen).

The first step in using the scale to support emotional regulation is to identify problem areas for this person. For example, problems involving changes in routine, playing with peers, or following rules at work. The next step is to break the problem area into 5 parts clearly illustrating the degrees of the situation and putting this information onto a visual scale. A common issue when discussing emotional regulation is that of stress and anxiety. This is a good place to start, creating a scale that breaks down stress into the following 5 parts:
5 = This could make me lose control 
4 = This can really upset me
3 = This can make me nervous
2 = This sometimes bothers me
1 = This never bothers me

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