Using the Five Point Scale to manage emotions

Posted by iChild, August 09, 2017 2:36 PM

By Mummy Times Two

Blogger, Mummy Times Two, has a nine year old daughter on the Autism spectrum. She is also an Autism Specialist Teacher. In this post she shares a useful technique for managing children's emotions...

One of the most difficult things for a child who experiences meltdowns is predicting when things are getting too stressful before they reach the point of no return. If they can learn to recognise the feelings of anxiety building, then they can learn how to remove themselves from a situation at the right point, and therefore how to keep both themselves and others safe.


One of the easiest ways to teach this is by using the "five point scale". The "five point scale" is exactly what its name says it is; a list of the numbers one to five, colour-coded for easy recognition.

You can tape them to your fridge, have them hanging on a bedroom door or even make miniature ones to carry in your pocket. All you need is a scale and an arrow. I love to use arrow shaped post it notes, but any arrow-shaped piece of paper works just as well. 

The idea is that the child can move the arrow up and down to show others how they are feeling at a glance. If a child is calm and happy, the arrow is at number one. If they feel they need some help to get back on track they move the arrow to number two, at the point when their anxiety really starts to rise they move it up to number three.

In my class it’s this, the number three, which is the most important. Number three is the point at which it’s possible to help a child to make a good choice; the point at which a child needs a break or some time out. For some that means a chance to talk about their worries, for others it means some alone time. Either way, it’s the right time for a child to ask for help and for an adult to offer it.

By the time the arrow moves to number four and number five it’s often difficult for a child to think clearly and make the choices they would have made earlier down the scale. It’s therefore much harder at this point to keep them safe. Which is why point three of the scale is where we need to help children, and get them to understand that they need help.

For much more detailed information and miniature 5 point scales check out this fantastic website:

By Mummy Times Two



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