Thursday, September 19, 2013

Guest Post: Humor, the Secret to Early Interventions

We've had several people request to write guests posts for our blog. We promise that we only agree when we feel that it adds a meaningful contribution. I liked this particular post because I work with a lot of children on the Autism Spectrum and many of them have a difficult time with humor. So, this one goes out to my fellow educational SLPs. Enjoy.

Humor is the Secret to Successful Early Childhood Interventions

Humor is known to improve the quality of an individual’s life, it helps people manage stress, develop healthy social and communication habits, enhance creativity, and develop reading and language skills. The sound of a child’s laughter may be taken for granted as a naturally developing aspect of a child’s personality.  However, a more sophisticated assessment of the development of humor in children requires an understanding of how the development of a child’s sense of humor is directly related to the development of the child’s cognitive, social, and linguistic abilities.  When humor is viewed from this perspective, it becomes an overwhelmingly important aspect of the educational and development process. Humor may even be used as an intervention tool for children experiencing developmental challenges.

In order to use humor as an intervention tool practitioners must first understand that situations, actions or words found humorous by children often occur when there is a violation of a social, behavioral, or linguistic norm.  Therefore, a child’s ability to find something humorous relies on their ability to recognize these norms and understand actions or behaviors that would violate them.  The chart below summarizes the stages of humor development in children, and provides examples of violations of recognized norms a child might find humorous.  This data is described in the article Head, Shoulders, Knees and…Peanut Butter What Makes Young Children Laugh, by Paul E. McGhee.

Using humor in an intervention has many benefits; it is useful in generating interest in the lesson, it may help explain complex concepts, and it may help develop a strong relationship between the child and the practitioner.  In addition to these benefits, using humor in intervention techniques may serve to enhance the child’s social skills by improving the child’s confidence in their ability to tell jokes and be funny, and helping them to understand the jokes and play of their peers.

Consider the following example: If a pre-school aged student is having difficulty recognizing or naming an object such as a pencil playing a game that uses the pencil in every way except for its intended use will explain why this play is funny and help the child to recognize the pencil’s intended purpose.  To enhance language development rhyming games would help to improve the child’s memory of the pencils name and enhance the child’s understanding of the humorous nature of playing with different sounds.

Using humor to treat developmental disorders in children has many mental health and social benefits. If you’re interested in helping children through their developmental stages of life, there are many career paths that allow you to help these kids such as Speech Pathology.

The challenge of this treatment is in determining what level of development the child is at and appealing to that humor to make the therapeutic process fun and effective while enhancing social skills. Approaching the treatment of a child’s developmental disorders in a way to nurtures their humor helps develop necessary cognitive and language abilities and helps them to get along and play better with their peers.

By Stephanie Small and edited by Laura Morrison, the Content Manager of For tips and information on continuing education in Speech Language Pathology, please visit .

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