Adalyn’s Clare by Kari Dunn Buron – Author Spotlight

This is a photo of Kari Dunn Buron with Clare (the dog) and Maureen (one of Kari’s past students)

A little information about Kari

Kari Dunn Buron taught in K-12 public schools with students on the autism spectrum for 30+ years. Kari was a founding member of the MN Autism Project, an autism training initiative for educators throughout the state. Kari developed an Autism Spectrum Disorders Certificate program for educators at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN and a camp for youth with Asperger Syndrome, sponsored by the Autism Society of MN.


Kari has done volunteer work specific to autism in Trinidad, Tobago, Barbados, Tanzania and Ghana. In 2003, Kari received a Self-designed Bush Leadership Fellowship that allowed her to spend a year interviewing and working internationally with a number of scientists, researchers and therapists in the area of Neuroscience, Social Cognition, Education and Autism, with a focus on challenging behaviors. In 2012, Kari was inducted into the Illinois State University Education Department Hall of Fame.


Kari is the co-author of The Incredible 5-Point Scale (Revised Edition), and the author of When My Worries Get Too Big, A 5 Could Make Me Lose Control and A 5 is Against the Law! (2008 ASA literary award winner). Kari is the co-editor of a textbook for educators titled Learners on the Autism Spectrum: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators (2009 ASA literary award winner) and is the creator of an original social skills magazine designed for students with Asperger Syndrome called The Social Times (2010 Gold Winner, National Parenting Publications Award and Gold Medal Winner – Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards).


Kari’s latest projects include Social Behavior and Self-Management

(a book about how to use the 5-point scale with adults) and an early chapter book entitled Adalyn’s Clare. Adalyn’s Clare is a story about the dilemmas faced when a child has social anxiety, and the importance of respecting special interests when creating successful special programs.

Kari has a lot of experience working with children on the autistic spectrum:

Although I have worked in special education since 1973, I did not complete

advanced degrees in this area until 1980. During my graduate work at Illinois State University I was assigned to a special school called The Baby Fold. It was at this school that I observed a child with autism for the first time. I found the child confusing, fascinating, amazing and frustrating all at the same time. I was certainly motivated to learn more and when a job offer came from Minnesota to start a program for young children with autism, I took it.


I was quite naive and had a lot to learn in 1980, but the state of Minnesota quickly developed a program that would later morph into the MN Autism Project. This program allowed a handful of us who were working with students on the autism spectrum to meet and discuss our needs and frustrations. As a group we started attending Autism Society of America conferences and gaining the knowledge needed to develop more effective programs in Minnesota.


Throughout the 80’s and into the 90’s I had a class of 6-8 young students with autism. I was the head teacher in our program and as the program grew, my role gradually became that of a program developer and teacher trainer for all students in our district ages 3-21. My autism specific training, along with my close relationship with families through the Autism Society of MN, led to my strong belief in positive programming, relationship building and social skills training.


Over the years, my role began to involve almost exclusively students with autism who exhibited challenging behaviors. My work led me to some professional truths as I see them:

1. Students who act out in social interactions lack the skills needed to negotiate those difficult moments in more effective ways.

2. Individuals who exhibit explosive behavior (tantrum like or aggressive) have delays in the area of emotional regulation skills, regardless of age.

3. This would suggest that explosive behavior is a lack of skills or more clearly, a learning disability. The way to address a learning disability is to teach needed skills.

4. Goals in the area of relaxation and relationship building are valid educational goals for a student with ASD and challenging behavior.

Kari’s Books

In 2003, my colleague Mitzi Curtis and I wrote The Incredible 5-Point Scale, which introduces a method of teaching social and emotional concepts in a very concrete, non-judging and systematic way. This year, 2012, we released the second edition of the book. In 2003, I also wrote When My Worries Get Too Big! a book for young children, meant to teach the use of a 5-point scale as a cognitive behavioral approach to learning relaxation. A few years later, I wrote A 5 is Against the Law, a workbook for adolescents with Asperger Syndrome who have difficulty understanding the subtle nature of interpersonal social rules. As a way to better understand my students’ perspective about the school environment, I developed a 5-point scale activity called A 5 Could Make Me Lose Control.


As a follow-up to my Fellowship, I teamed up with Dr. Pamela Wolfberg of San Francisco State University to edit a textbook designed to teach educators how to best work with students on the autism spectrum. The textbook is entitled Learners on the Autism Spectrum: Preparing Highly Qualified Educators and has been adopted by many university programs. Dr. Wolfberg and I are currently working on a second edition of this text.


This fall, AAPC released a book I co-authored with Mitzi Curtis and two educators who work at the university level with students on the autism spectrum, Jane Thierfeld Brown and Lisa King. The book is entitled, Social Behavior and Self-Management: 5 Point Scales for Adolescents and Adults. The book focuses on adult issues such as roommates, dating, etc.


Three years ago, I started working on a children’s chapter book about a highly anxious 4th grader with Asperger Syndrome. I decided to not give Adalyn an actual label but to describe her simply as a child who had great difficulty finding friends, and who could benefit from relaxation training and canine therapy. I had worked with my dog Clare in schools and at camp for five years and wanted to create a story that would inform other children, in a fun way, about social anxiety.


Explosive behavior can be scary to witness and so I wanted to “humanize” a loss of emotional control for typical students. I also wanted to create characters that students with Asperger Syndrome could relate to and learn from. I wanted to use the forum of a chapter book to point out the

ridiculous nature of school suspension for children who suffer from social anxieties. I also wanted to introduce relaxation as a content area in school.

My book, Adalyn’s Clare was published this fall and I like to think the story meets my lofty objectives. The characters are interesting and smart, Clare is wonderful but not perfect, and the animal characters are both smart and interesting. I decided to elaborate in the acknowledgements as a way of offering more information to the interested reader. As a result, it is quite lengthy but can help a teacher or librarian to understand the issues of social anxiety and how I developed my characters.

I will be reading and reviewing this book sometime next year so please stay in contact.

You can access Kari’s author’s page and links to her books here:

Adalyn’s Clare is available here:



~ by adelesymonds on November 28, 2012.

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