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Learning to Laugh

January 19, 2023

An neurodiverse adult advises parents on how to help their children learn to laugh at themselves and with others in a positive way.

Learning to Laugh

I would always say, “Sorry, blonde moment!” as a cover-up whenever I didn’t understand something right away. Now that I’m back to my natural hair color as a brunette, I guess I have to come up with a new reason as to why I don’t always understand things right away. 

I mean…I could always just be honest and respond with: “Well, I was cross-diagnosed with learning disabilities when I was 18 months old, and I have spent my entire life overcoming obstacles due to my cognitive delays, so that might be the reason why it takes me a few extra seconds to understand something!” For some reason, most people tend to quiet down once I hit them with that reality check. I know, crazy, right?

I guess as a 24-year-old published author and inspirational speaker with a Master’s Degree in Literacy Education, most people don’t expect me to still have my “blonde moments” or “dizzy moments” as I like to call them. 

I guess most people don’t look at me and say: “Hey, I bet you were diagnosed with PDD at two-and-a-half years old, but wow, you’ve certainly come a long way! I know that couldn’t have been easy!” Most people will assume I wasn’t interested enough to give them my undivided attention. 

Some people actually assume I choose not to read directions when they are given to me. Little do they realize I need to read something a minimum of three times to even have a chance of fully comprehending what the directions are asking me to do. But you know what happens when you assume, right?

I’ll be honest, some days it is really hard working as a full-time professional and navigating life with the residual effects of my learning disabilities. But one thing that has always helped me to not be so hard on myself is having a sense of humor. It took me a really long time to realize that it’s okay to laugh things off. 

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However, it took me an even greater amount of time to realize that it’s okay if your family, friends, or co-workers laugh with you but not at you. There is a very big difference between the two. I know what you’re thinking: How do I teach my child this? How do I provide a comfortable but humorous environment for my child, for times when they have to navigate these moments?

It starts with YOU, my warrior parents! Yes, you! It is so important that you set an example for your child and show him/her that even you make mistakes, and even you have your “silly moments.” 

You can let your child know that you also step back and laugh at yourself! I remember when my mother was earning her MBA while I was in middle school. She was running late for work and tripped, causing her to fall down a flight of stairs in front of everyone. Against all odds, she still managed to keep a full cup of coffee in her hand! How impressive that the cup of coffee was still full—to me it was even more impressive that she was laughing at something I considered to be an extremely embarrassing situation. It was in that moment that I realized, if my mom can laugh at a situation like this, why can’t I?

It’s okay to laugh!

Even though I received almost 10 years of physical therapy due to my spastic diplegia and my right external hip rotation, I still trip more than the average person. Call it clumsy genes, call it residual effects from my delays, either way, this was a very relatable situation for me. And you know what? To this very day, whenever I trip, I almost always giggle to myself. 

Because laughing it off is ALWAYS better than getting down on yourself! Moral of the story: it is so important to show your child that no matter what they do, they should NOT feel bad or self-conscious for being themselves and having those “silly” moments!

Distinguish between being laughed at and laughing with

Once your child is on the same page and can laugh at themselves, it is important that he/she can distinguish between friends laughing at vs. laughing with him or her. 

I wish I could say the world is 100 percent rainbows and sunshine, that no one would laugh at someone who has learning disabilities, but unfortunately, I would be wrong. It is important to explain to your child that if someone laughs at something that actually is embarrassing or that causes him/her some kind of harm, it is never okay. 

Lord only knows the number of times I had my mom help me navigate these types of social situations. Tell your child to tell the person laughing at them: “Hey, that’s not very nice!” or some other quick response. But if it’s a situation where he/she is extremely embarrassed or hurt, he/she is probably not able to think about an appropriate response to being laughed at.

Some individuals  with an impulsive personality, like my younger brother, would probably give such a person an ear full—as he has actually had to do on my behalf. However, for someone like me, with my Type A personality, or for someone who struggles with verbal communication, let your child know he/she can always come home and confide in you, and together, you will come up with a plan. 

Full disclosure, I don’t think I grasped the whole “it’s okay to laugh at yourself” idea until middle school. I spent too many years throughout my early childhood crying about doing anything that society didn’t view as “normal.” 

I have tripped up the stairs during my first week of middle school, asked my grandfather in a room full of people what it was like to fight in the Civil War (he was a WWll Marine Veteran), and arrived home from school in the 4th grade and told my mom that I got into an argument with another girl on the bus because she said the stork did NOT drop off babies to people’s doors. I had said: “No! that’s not what my mom told me! You’re wrong!” You can imagine my surprise to figure out there could be another way to have babies besides being delivered by a stork. 

No matter what the reason, I would cry whenever I had those moments and debated if I should live under a rock due to mass humiliation. It took years to grow confidence in myself. In addition, I had endless support from my family who taught me that my “flaws” are really not the end of the world, nor are they really flaws, and it’s okay to smile and laugh it off! 

You know your child just as well, if not better, than they know themselves. You can determine when they are ready to comprehend what it means to “laugh it off” and you can lead by example! As always, I believe in you my warrior parents, you got this!

This article was featured in Issue 125 – Unwrapping ABA Therapy

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