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Aspies and Impaired Humor Comprehension

Research has shown that people with Aspergers (high functioning autism) are impaired in humor appreciation, although anecdotal and parental reports provide some evidence to the contrary.

Flexible thinking is vital in comprehending jokes. Punch-lines in jokes are funny mostly because they are unexpected. In addition, big picture thinking is needed in understanding jokes, as it allows the listener to discern how the surprising punch line fits together with the joke body. As Aspies (i.e., people with Aspergers) often demonstrate rigid thinking, a desire for the preservation of sameness, and difficulties with big picture thinking, it seems that they have trouble perceiving and producing “normal” humor.

Research suggests that Aspies produce and perceive humor in ways that are different from their same-age peers. They tended to prefer jokes with straightforward endings more than did peers in the control group, and their humor production was often less organized. However, research also suggests that boys with Aspergers both want to laugh – and to make others laugh. Thus, rather than calling this finding “impaired humor appreciation,” a better term might be “humor nonconformity.”

The ability to engage in social interaction is not one skill, but a set of skills that includes facility with language, interpreting nuances, reading facial expressions, regulating emotions, and understanding the possible motives and wishes of others. While Aspies typically have average to well above average verbal cognitive abilities, they often have difficulty using language in ways that connect them to others.

Research asserts the importance of humor in developing and maintaining relationships. It has been shown to reduce social uncertainty and anxiety, increase intimacy, and allow for the safe expression of delicate issues (e.g., sexual interest).

Since “normal” humor (i.e., humor that facilitates relationships) plays such a vital role in relationships, the possibility of humor-related “abnormalities” would help explain some of the social difficulties seen with Aspies.

The difficulty of an Aspie having an “abnormal” sense of humor is that he is less likely to draw others to himself through this “social tool.” This is especially true during adolescence, when peers ostracize those who are different. Difficulties understanding humor can create a feeling of isolation in Aspies when they are surrounded by laughing peers who got the joke. Also, they may become ideal targets for “emotional bullying’ (e.g., without understanding the sarcasm in a put-down, Aspies are not likely to fight back). With decreased ability to make others laugh, Aspie teens have less access to a powerful medium for facilitating relationships.

The awareness of these issues has implications for possible intervention. Parents can coach their Aspergers child on elements of humor. Humor skills can be explicitly taught with some success. By giving Aspies these skills, they are given a more equal chance with regard to social interaction.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have been incorporating humor since my daughter was old enough to walk, it has helped a lot!! Does she get everything??? No but she can get the basics and laugh at herself if someone looks at her like "what are you talking about" and then they will usually laugh with her at that point...
22 hours ago · Like

DE said...

Let's not forget what aspie focus can achieve. I took in an interest in humor as a child. Didn't understand it, but I needed to. Now I'm known as the (intentionally) funny guy. Have done stand-up comedy. Without anyone crying. So there you go.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

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Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

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Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

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Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes.

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Parents, teachers, and the general public have a lot of misconceptions of Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism. Many myths abound, and the lack of knowledge is both disturbing and harmful to kids and teens who struggle with the disorder.

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Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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