Have you heard of the Iceberg metaphor to describe behaviour issues in children with Autism?
It was first used by Eric Schopler in 1995, when he was working in the area of Autism educational research at the University of North Carolina. The university is one of the top places in the world for autism research and have devised many of the systems and programmes that I use in my teaching to help my ASD students.
The basic premise of the Iceberg metaphor is that the things we see “above the water”, for example meltdowns, tantrums, violent behaviour are just the tip of the iceberg.
There is so much more going on with someone with autism than what is immediately seen.
Below the waterline are all the issues and stresses that are not apparent straight away. These could include anxiety, issues with understanding what is expected of them, lack of understanding of social norms and rules, feeling different from their peers, sensory sensitivities, and a buildup of little annoyances. The list could go on and on, and will be different for each person.
Keeping all this in mind can help us all to be more understanding and patient. I’m a big believer in the idea that all behaviour is communication. If we ate seeing challenging behaviours “above the water”, the onus is on us to look deeper, and try to figure out what is going on “below the waterline”. Some of these issues we will be able to help with, others may be harder to deal with or may not have a solution.
Either way, I think understanding is half the battle sometimes.