Rating scales help a child or adult describe the intensity of their feelings and/or the emotions being experienced. They provide an ordered framework on which the child can base their self-assessment and they help them understand the 'shades of grey' between the extremes of happiness and sadness. The visual nature of the scale allows pointing where the child is unwilling or unable to vocalise this. The child can also just give a number or colour and this more neutral expression can often protect the child from the raw emotion that they may experience when trying to directly articulate how happy or sad they are.
Using Rating Scales
A rating scale serves two purposes. Firstly, it can be used to help those around the child monitor their emotional state. This can be useful in helping to identify triggers for melt downs and allows staff or parents to take proactive steps to avoid this. Secondly and most importantly it raises awareness in the child of the fluctuations in their own emotional state. Through this self-awareness the child can be taught to have greater self-control by taking some appropriate action before it is too late. They can therefore be highly effective in reducing 'melt downs' and panic attacks.
Rating scales work best when:
they are introduced, explained and modelled over a number of sessions
work on emotional vocabulary and strategies for managing their emotions are taught at least once a week
they are used consistently, not just when the child is obviously getting angry, upset or anxious. Creating awareness requires frequent opportunities to self-reflect
the child is not the only one expected to use a rating scale. Whole class/school approaches normalise the experience of using them
the same rating scale system is used at home and at school
written individualised plans detailing the strategies the child should use to self-regulate are agreed, circulated to adults who need to know and taught to the child