Does Humor Help Learning & Connection?

“A sense of humor can brighten up family life. You can blow raspberries on your baby’s belly, put on a silly hat and chase a 3-year-old, or pretend to fall into a pile of leaves to amuse your first-grader. As kids grow into pre-teens and teens, their sense of what’s funny becomes more sophisticated and you can share puns and jokes with them.

“For parents and caregivers with children on the autism spectrum, we may think humor isn’t useful or important or relevant with our children who are often in Red Lights (in their own world) or not interacting with us.

“Laughing together is an awesome way to connect with each other and deepen your relationship and a good sense of humor has been proven to help us (including our kids) be smarter, healthier, and better able to cope with challenges.

“We tend to think of humor as part of our genetic makeup, like blue eyes or big feet. However, a sense of humor actually is a learned quality that can be developed in kids, not something they’re born with.

“What’s So Funny Anyway?

“Humor is what makes something funny; a sense of humor is the ability to recognize it. Someone with a well-developed sense of humor can recognize what’s funny in others and can amuse them as well.

“A good sense of humor is a tool that kids can rely on throughout life to help them:
• See things from many perspectives other than the most obvious
• Be spontaneous
• Grasp unconventional ideas or ways of thinking
• See beyond the surface of things
• Enjoy and participate in the playful aspects of life
• Not take themselves too seriously
• Handle differences well (their own and others)
• Create friendships
• Be happier and more optimistic
• Have higher self-esteem
• Be more able to handle the adversities of childhood — from moving to a new town, to teasing, to torment by playground bullies.
… these benefits also absolutely apply to our children on the autism spectrum who can have challenges in all of these areas.

“In addition, a good sense of humor doesn’t just help kids emotionally and socially. Research has shown that people who laugh more are healthier — they’re less likely to be depressed and may even have an increased resistance to illness or physical problems. They experience less stress; have lower heart rates, pulses, and blood pressure; and have better digestion. Laughter may even help humans better endure pain, and studies have shown that it improves our immune function.

“But most of all, a sense of humor is what makes life fun!

“Basic Humor “How To’s”

“It’s never too late to start inspiring a child to develop their sense of humor … including your child on the autism spectrum. When you’re playful and humorous with your child, delighting in silliness and laughter, you help him or her develop a playful and humorous attitude about life.

“One of the best ways to do this from the toddler years on is to spend time every day being receptive to the many opportunities your child gives you to smile or laugh. Be spontaneous, playful, and aware of what your child finds funny at different ages. Also, be game enough to laugh so the jokes don’t fall flat.

“What else can you do to encourage your child’s sense of humor?

o Be a humor model.
“One of the best things you can do to develop your child’s sense of humor is to use your own. Make jokes. Tell funny stories. Laugh out loud. Deal lightly with small catastrophes, like spilled milk.
Make humor a part of your day-to-day interactions with your child on the autism spectrum. Share jokes, funny stories, and experiences together… and with your other family members. As your child on the spectrum sees you joking and laughing with your other children or spouse, she can see different styles of humor being demonstrated.

o Take kids’ humor seriously.
“Encourage your child’s attempts at humor, whether it’s reading (potentially unfunny) jokes from a book or drawing “funny” pictures of the family dog. Celebrate all your child’s attempts at trying to be funny. When you have an opportunity, encourage your child to share funny observations or reactions.

o Create a humor-rich environment at home.
“Surround your kids with funny books — for younger children, these include picture books or nonsense rhymes; older kids will love joke books and comics.
Another opportunity to develop your child’s sense of humor is to take time to have fun as a family. You might even adopt your own offbeat family tradition: whether it’s hanging spoons off your noses or wearing matching pajamas. It will be funny now — and maybe even funnier in years to come, when you and your kids remember those silly family times.

“Why does Humor Work In The Son-Rise Program® Playroom?

“The benefits of incorporating humor when implementing your next Son-Rise Program® goals are many. Research on humor has consistently found a strong effective relationship between the use of humor and learning promoting increased attention and interest. Moreover, with interest comes motivation and the beautiful cycle continues: more fun equals more interest, equals more motivations, and increased attention span and learning.

“Simply put, by making your Son-Rise Program® playroom experience more fun and enjoyable, humor can make learning more effective.

“Our tribute to adding humor to your day – some jokes to get you started:

Why can’t Elsa from Frozen have a balloon?
Because she will “let it go, let it go.”

What do you call a dog magician?
A labracadabrador.

Where would you find an elephant?
The same place you lost her.

How do you get a squirrel to like you?
Act like a nut.

What do you call two birds in love?

What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?
Finding half a worm.

What is a computer’s favorite snack?
Computer chips.

What did one volcano say to the other?
I lava you.

How do we know that the ocean is friendly?
It waves.

What is a tornado’s favorite game to play?

How do you talk to a giant?
Use big words.

“Have fun experimenting using humor to create laughs with your child!!!!”

Written by Suzanne Pruss, Son-Rise Program Teacher

4 Responses

  1. Suzanne says:

    Love this!!! Humor can be so undervalued in every day life. But its a huge force in connection. My son loves nothing more than when we find a way to really laugh together.

    • Autism Treatment Center of America says:

      We’re so glad you enjoyed this, Suzanne, and thanks for your comment! Yes, humor is so effective in forging a connection. How fun that you and your son are laughing together – we smile at the thought. 🙂

    • Rose Noland says:

      What do you do when the laughter becomes an -ism? Repeating and repeating?

      • Autism Treatment Center of America says:

        Hi Rose – great question and thank you for your post. When our children are ism-ing, we join them. So if your child is laughing as an ism, you can laugh too! Put your heart and soul into it and you’ll have a blast!

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