Sliding scales are a great way to help children with Autism grasp a number of different behavioural, social and relationship issues. Children with Autism can find these issues challenging and therefore it is important to use a visual sliding scale: to develop independence; explain social situations and make explicit behavioural expectations/ consequences.
The Incredible 5 Point Scale™ is widely used by professionals and parents alike. There are many variations to the scale. Scales should be individualised to the child. Scales can also range from a 2 point scale all the way up to a 10 point scale. It is recommended that the scale is never higher than the 5 although this is not a totally rigid rule. Please visit: 5 Point Scale for more information and training.
Beginning to use the sliding scale
It is important to make sure that the sliding scale is personalised to the child who is using it. Work with the child to create the scale and allow the child to personalise it with choices. For example, the child could choose to use faces or decide not to use faces.
Here are some examples below:
This a sliding scale with basic words and faces used to explain voice levels.
The Incredible 5 point Scale with just pictures
A sliding scale with noise levels and conversation visuals.
As children make progress with their reading, add words to help reflect how they feel at each step. Keep the process visual and make it age appropriate. A child may be able to read but may still need visual support. It is important to make sure that the child is always given visual support that is age appropriate.
A key point to remember is that some adults with autism have stated that once they are in a heightened state of anxiety ( Level 4/5) – often words and voices are not recognised. It is important to understand and make the sliding scale reflect this heightened state of anxiety. Once a child starts moving up the scale, for example from a 2 to a 3, give the child strategies to bring themselves back down, for example a sensory activity or space to settle themselves. Ideally it is advantageous to encourage independence.
It is helpful to refer to the Zones of Regulation or to see our article about self-regulation.
A 5 is against the law
As children start to get older and they become adolescents, it is important to put behaviour into a world context. For example, if punching is a number 5, then this is against the law and could result in a real life consequence. It is important to be very clear with this explanation. In addition, the sliding scale can be used to explain different social situations, for example, behaviour around dating or sexual advances.
Please have a look at the examples below: