Friday, May 18, 2012

The Incredible 5-Point Scale

Patricia Howlin, a researcher from the UK, once said that having autism must be like falling through Alice’s looking glass (from Alice in Wonderland), everything is chaotic and confusing. Nothing seems to make sense, not even our natural social order. A child on the autism spectrum may not understand that the teacher is the boss and he is not, and so be terribly frustrated that he does not get to make up any of the school rules. Such social confusion can easily lead to social stress, anxiety, and even aggressive behavior. We have learned that individuals with autism tend to work best when taught within visual and predictable routines. Simon Baron Cohen (in press) suggests that if individuals with ASD possess good systematizing skills, it may be possible to use those skills to compensate for difficulties in empathizing skills. This would imply that students with ASD may learn best using visual and predictable “systems”. Dr. Tony Attwood (2006) says that the more someone with ASD understands his or her emotions, the more able that person is to express them appropriately. The Incredible 5-point Scale (Buron & Curtis. 2003) introduces the use of a scale to teach social and emotional concepts to individuals who have difficulty learning such concepts, but who have a relative strength in learning systems. An example of learning a concept with a scale can be illustrated by a student who often talks too loud for the situation. Telling that person to “be quiet” or “use an inside voice” hasn’t changed the behavior. Using a scale to further break down the expectations might be helpful (figure one). The first step is to decide how you want to break down the concept. In this case, we broke volume down to illustrate silence all the way to screaming. Once you have created your scale, you can write a story for the student to explain the scale. You can then post the scale near the student’s desk or personal space. I recommend you review the schedule often when the student is calm and ready to learn. Do not wait until the person is upset or in the midst of screaming to teach.

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