This is an assumption that all autistic children scream. They don’t. Lower functioning children on the spectrum scream because they like the sound of their voices and aren’t using them to talk. Or they have a health problem that they can’t tell a parent or doctor about. Pain will make them scream too, and since their pain thresholds are already low, they scream when they even so much as feel a pin prickle.
Parents have to recognize what the different screams mean. Just as a scream of terror in a horror movie means one thing and a scream of surprised means something else in another, so the screams of autistic children who do scream have their own meanings. Watching for other non-verbal body cues help parents figure out why their child is screaming.
A particular form of autism spectrum disorder that only affects girls is called Cri Du Chat, which is French for “cry of the cat”. It’s an extremely rare disorder but has become part of the spectrum because it attacks infant girls at the age of twenty-four months, the same time that autism begins to transform children who have it. Their cries, or screams, sound very much like the piercing cry of a cat being tortured, and will continue it for hours. It’s very unnerving to hear and even more unnerving to be around the whole time it continues. Supposedly over time it decreases as the little girl grows and continues to regress in all of her abilities.
As for high functioning autistic children who scream, they do so because they want you to pay attention to them and they think that if you aren’t looking right at them and acknowledging them when they talk you are ignoring them. They do not like being ignored unless they want to be. This behavior is easily correctable, as high functioning autistic children can respond and learn from discipline just as well as the next child. They just need to be reminded to use their words, because they have them and they can use them.
The spectrum is wide, with many variations on it. Generalizations such as this one about all autistic children screaming is precisely what promotes the stereotype that is hurtful and not helpful. If a child screams, it is safe to always ask the parent why; they might tell you that their child is fine or that he/she has autism spectrum disorder and this is typical for just their child. That is the truth, too. No two autistic children are alike; one may scream and the other doesn’t. It’s just the mysteries of autism. There are many more behavioral problems in children with autism. Apply these powerful behavior management strategies to control an autistic kid.