1. Deciding where to start

Blank  iceburg

Archie iceburg




When listing challenging behaviours, it is important to be specific.

Descriptions such as aggressive, attacking and violent may feel true, but are too vague.

Instead, try to list the ACTUAL behaviours as verbs, for example: kicking, spitting, scratching, banging head on the floor, throwing objects etc…


Useful questions to ask to decide which behaviours are of most concern:

  • Which behaviour is having the most impact on the person or those around them?

  • Which behaviour is causing harm to the person or those around them?

  • Which behaviour is restricting the person from important experiences?

  • Which behaviour is causing the most stress for the person or those around them?

  • Which behaviour is the most intense and/or the most frequent?


You can also use the behaviours of concern form in the resource panel on the right to help you think about the behaviours that are causing concern.

When we are experiencing challenging behaviour we are also dealing with our own emotions. This is natural and normal. By being specific about the behaviour we are also attempting to think rationally about what’s happening. We are trying to be solution focussed and calm.

We can use the image of an Iceberg with its different layers to help us understand the nature of behaviours that we see. An iceberg has a tip above the water and larger part beneath the water. By gradually working our way down through the different parts of the iceberg, we can start to work out why the behaviour occurs and what we can do to help.


For an example, click on the Iceberg in the resource panel on the right.

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