Max screeches, loudly. It literally makes my heart beat faster. You know that scene in Monsters, Inc. in which Boo screams so loudly after Mike snatches her teddy bear from her it makes the lights flicker?
The screeching used to go on for ten to fifteen minutes at a time, mostly when Max was tired or having a sensory meltdown. He'd do it anywhere. Now he only screeches at home and they're shorter and more pointed, though just as charmingly ear-splitting. They're usually in reaction to his hearing something he doesn't want to hear. (As in, "No, you can't watch Despicable Me 2 a second time.") My instincts have been to try and calm Max down, because that is what I am used to doing: helping him, as best I can.
Finally, I had a conversation with Max's pediatric neurologist about the screeching. He's both wise and realistic, a winning combination in a doctor. "Break the cycle by doing the opposite of what he wants," he told me. "If you stand there and listen to him screech, he's getting the reaction he's seeking. So the next time it happens, simply say 'thirty seconds,' leave the room and come back in thirty seconds. If it happens again, increase the time—say 'one minute,' leave the room then come back when time is up."
No need to explain anything or further engage. I just needed to leave.
I've been trying this, and I've had some success. I've had to go up to five minutes, but the screeching peters out. Sometimes Max follows me out of the room and keeps yelling, and I'll duck into the bathroom or just not engage or make eye contact. He gets so amused by my attempts to ignore him that he starts giggling. Not exactly how this is supposed to work, but it works.
Parenthood: You never stop learning, do you?
Image of Boo: Screen grab, Monsters, Inc.