Laughing at Language
In last week's Autism Spectrum Blog, What's
Silly about That?, I gave you several examples of presenting humor to
different levels of people with ASD. Being silly yourself and finding silliness
in life is so important. Humor is a language skill that is gleaned in people
with typical development, but humor and laughter has to be taught to people on
the autism spectrum.
"To succeed in life, you need three things: a
wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone."
On a visit
to an amusement park, a little boy was riding in a kiddy train around a
circular track. He appeared to be enjoying himself, although tenseness showed
as his little hands clutched either side of the silver-tracked vehicle. His
manner was stoic. He didn't wave back to his parents as he came around each
corner and they called his name. He kept his eye straight ahead.
the little boy's mother and father perceived that their son was frightened by
the experience and decided to take him off the train the next time it stopped. As
the mother attempted to lift him out of the seat, the little boy kicked,
screamed, flailed, and arched back in a tantrum of the mega-kind because he
wanted back on the train.
How was the
mother to know that the little boy was having fun? That the little boy really
liked riding on the train when he didn't smile, laugh, wave, or show any
outward signs of joy? How was the mother, I, to know?
the little boy road the train five more times and this mother and father continued
to wave, smile, and laugh with encouragement. Sometimes, joy is like an iceberg; it runs deep.
What Laughter Brings to Our Lives
- Laughter is tied to communication
In the scene above, I could not read my
son's communication intent like other mothers could read their children who were
laughing and waiving and "choo-chooing" with joy.
"Laughter is no detriment to learning." - Walt Disney
It is my vow to
myself as an SLP and as having raised a child with ASD that I never
leave a therapy session without at least one instance of
shared laughter. That laughter can be from verbal to bubbles to tickling, but
it must be shared. There is nothing more that a parent wants to hear from their
child than laughter.
Autism is a syndrome of high anxiety.
Ease it by teaching laughter.
- Laughter can change an emotion
One reason children with autism cry a
lot is because they don't understand how to laugh. Have you ever felt like you
could either laugh or cry? Laughter cleanses that emotional tension and changes
it by also changing one's frame of mind.
- Laughter stimulates our senses
People with autism have either hyper or
hypo senses. They can often smell things before we do and hear things that we
can't. Laughter helps teach and explain things that impose upon senses.
- Laughter helps us live longer
There is a link between an optimistic
attitude and good health. According to the British Dental Health Foundation, a
smile gives the same level of stimulation as eating 2,000 chocolate bars. WOW!
- Laughter nourishes our souls
"Before the assault of laughter, nothing can stand." Mark
Laughter Therapy can be found on the internet. Perhaps it might be a worthwhile thing for
some of our adult clients with ASD to investigate. The soul needs to be
nourished; a time to laugh and a time to cry.
You elevate the mood of others through
laughter. It is a social awareness between two or more people who share the
same moment in time. Laughter improves, stimulates, and increases social
Laughter is freedom because it bestows
the ability upon us to interact with people. When people, like those on the
autism spectrum, do not understand how to interact, it is our job to teach them
and give them that freedom.
This week I leave you with a quote by
Gloria Vanderbilt: "That is the best - to laugh with someone because you both
think the same things are funny."
"Speech pathologists make good things