Laughter – the best medicine
When do you feel closest to your child? Is it when you are learning together, developing communication skills and furthering academic progress? Or when you curl up together with a great book or film, sharing a special moment? The chances are, the moments which you cherish the most are when you and your child are laughing. There is something truly magical about sharing a joke, looking at each other with complete understanding and sharing the lovely feeling which humor can bring. Children with special needs such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or ADHD are renowned for having a great sense of humor. It is this quality which supports ongoing resilience against challenges, enabling teachers, parents and care givers to engage with kids and share a moment of mutual understanding. Looking after kids with challenging needs can be taxing for even the most patient and loving parent or teacher, and often laughter is exactly the boost which both child and adult need to see the funny side of a potential mishap, and communicate that it is OK to screw up from time to time. Laughter achieves a number of positive chemical and physical responses in us. It boosts endorphins, making us feel brighter and more alert. It reduces stress chemicals, providing us with a much-needed release from any pent-up anxieties or stress which may have been accumulating internally, causing tension. In fact, many scientists advocate the use of laughter therapy for diffusing tension, creating a more positive and balanced approach to overall well-being. Best of all, between adult and child, laughter creates one of the purest forms of bonding and communication available to us, enabling both people to reach out through a shared joke. When we first get to know our children and grow with them, exploring how to make them laugh is one of the most rewarding experiences we can have. Children laugh at very different things – one kid may love mirrors, laughing at their reflection, or burst in to laughter when they see other small people. Other kids love being tickled, or respond to a certain cadence in your voice which makes them smile. There are a number of techniques for encouraging your child to laugh with you, and it comes down to understanding your child well enough to know what will trigger a shared moment. Often, children or teenagers with challenges such as ADHD can struggle to see the funny side of life when it seems as if all the cards in the pack are stacked against them. Failing tests, being singled out at school or feeling despondent about achievements can all be helped significantly by seeing the humor in the situation. Rather than making fun of it, it’s about bringing awareness that it is OK to not always achieve our goals, and there are elements of any situation that can be used to laugh rather than feel down. Younger children with Autism may have trouble shaking despondency and humor can really help. Make jokes, set challenges for kids to find their own jokes and tell them to people. Laughter is a universal language that we each fully understand, and by promoting it in your home and schools, you can work wonders to ease communications, encourage bonding, and support your children through the more difficult times.