"Our 5-year-old child with ASD is now constantly screeching throughout the day and night. He is stressed from returning to daycare. Any tips for the screeching? Our therapists generally adhere to the ignoring method — to not give any response to the particular behaviour so there is no reinforcement. So far no luck." - Vancouver Father
I have very sensitive hearing and screeching children wears me down very quickly. Yes, we should not reinforce negative behaviour by responding to it and yes the behaviour may eventually lessen on its own, but what about our sanity?
What purpose does screeching serves for this child?
To solve a problem, we need to first figure out the cause. When did this behaviour start? Has it changed recently? Does it happen from wake to sleep? Or does it only happen at certain time or triggered by a specific event?
Individuals with ASD tend to process sensory information differently and the screeching is a response to stress then I imagine that screeching is a coping and soothing mechanism. Perhaps screeching is the child's vocal stim (a repetitive and rhythmic action that feels really really good) and forcing this behaviour to stop would be cruel and adds more stress.
However, our sanity is important too. Our own sensory needs are important too. In a household, everyone needs to work together to create a safe environment. If the child can understand, you can designate spaces where they can screech to their hearts content. Or we can put on noise-cancelling headphones ourselves. If vocal sim intensifies under stress, what can we do to de-stress and help them regulate? Can we remove the stress? Or make the event less stressful?
Most importantly, we need to actively wonder:
Are there other ways the child can feel good?
Are there other less constructive sensory activities the child can partake in? What other sensory toys and items are at the child's disposal? In Relationship Development Intervention, we help children feel good by co-regulating with their parents and experiencing authentic joys in many other ways. Through RDI, we help children become more mindful for their experiences and have more inner-resources to overcome challenges like this.