What’s So Funny? Helping Neurodivergent Young Adults Relate To Humor

What’s So Funny? Helping Neurodivergent Young Adults Relate To Humor 495 401 Advance LA

Here’s a joke for you: I ordered a chicken and an egg from Amazon. I’ll let you know which arrives first.

While some of us might find this funny, some folks with autism may not get the humor and they won’t laugh when hearing it. The lack of laughter can be misinterpreted as a lack of a sense of humor. But people with autism do in fact want to laugh and be included in the fun. They just may process humor differently than others due to their social, language, and communication challenges.

The subject of young adults with autism and humor was the discussion topic at a
recent Advance LA parent support group meeting. Parents mentioned that their young adult children often misunderstand humor or feel upset when others do not “get” their
humor. But all of the parents wanted their friends and family to know that people with autism are as funny, and enjoy humor, as much as neurotypical people – they just might display humor in different ways.

People with autism are less likely to engage in laughter purely for the sake of social interaction. “Social-interaction” laughter is the type of laughter that someone may have out of politeness or social pressure rather than because of something that is truly funny.
Further, because some people with autism display rigidity in thinking and struggle with seeing the big picture, they can find it difficult to create and understand the type of humor that requires flexible thinking. Because many jokes require abstract thought and understanding figurative language, this kind of humor can be a challenge for people with autism. They might need an explicit explanation to understand why the joke is funny. But when an autistic person does understand the humor, they will laugh as they find it genuinely funny versus just laughing as a means of social expression. In addition, they may display behaviors, such as random bursts of laughter, which can sometimes cause social challenges.

To help create the skill of knowing when to display social-interaction laughter, neurodivergent young adults can be taught to respond to jokes. For example, if a friend or colleague is telling a joke, an appropriate response is a laugh, a smile or saying, “that’s funny!” It is also a skill to know how to moderate laughter in terms of intensity, volume, and duration that matches the joke. For example, often a small chuckle is appropriate rather than an all out belly laugh.

Making appropriate jokes and responding to humor helps to facilitate interpersonal relationships. Because individuals with autism may process jokes differently, it is helpful for neurodivergent young adults to understand how to relate to humor. Humor is an important part of human interaction and necessary for social growth.