Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Laughing Matter

Autism brings different challenges in different seasons of Calder's life. The most recent one is inappropriate laughter. The family just returned from a church camp where his idiosyncrasies were graciously abided. But we had to keep him from disrupting the talks with his loud and continuous laughing. From admonishments to wordsearch tablet games to snacks that hopefully would keep his mouth busy, we tried in vain to stop the loud hilarity. Is he this way because we are too lenient? Can he actually control such laughter? I decided to seek the advice of the international autism community (on Facebook) and guess what I got?

The question:

My 13-year-old autistic son gets these laughing fits where he cannot seem to stop giggling (or can he?). Is this something common to you? What is happening, can someone advise?


"I wish I knew, but I was the exact same at his age."

"This is common for me for sure."

"This happens to me sometimes... I think part of it is nerves."

"I used to laugh until I peed, then the fun was either over or doubled up because we were laughing that I peed myself."

"I get that when i haven't had  meltdown in a long time."

"I used to have giggle fits, it was fun!"

"My grandson does this and it usually results in everyone around him laughing even though they have no idea why."

"I do this because I'm funny as hell and crack myself up."

"I had those when I changed to a school that I loved.  It was far less strict than my previous one and I would go off into laughing fits with tears of laughter pouring out of my eyes.  When I laugh extremely hard there is no sound.  Teachers had no idea what to make of it but I got the Best Laugh Award in the Yearbook!"

"It could be autistic replay. Where a memory comes flooding through and its basically like we are right back there and are taken over by whatever emotion we had at that time. It happens to me a lot. Or he just thought of something funny. Which I also will do and laugh at while people look at me funny."

"It takes a lot of depth or very direct and silly obvious humour to make me laugh and I think that sometimes when I finally feel something is funny...it is built up.

Also...for my own children it can be a reaction to not knowing how to react, especially for my son.

I actually remember feeling this way as a child...it is common in my family to laugh when someone gets hurt...we learned that it hurt feelings and as we age we regulated it...but it seems to have come back in the children.

My son will get hurt and his sister will laugh..she doesn't go on long..but it upsets him.

When he laughed at my mother after a fall...he ran away because he knew it wasn't an appropriate reaction and he was embarrassed.

He kept saying he couldnt help it...since I experienced this myself when younger I understood but used it to explain further that his sister also can't help it and just like him it is a normal reaction. It comes from them not knowing how to react to someone's pain (they can understand and feel helpless and even it can seem silly that an adult has lost control, or that the depth of their feelings is more than they can express).

No one laughs in my family out of spite. We are truly gentle hearts deep down..."

"My daughter does this. And I want to reach back in time when any 'professional' said it was 'for no reason' and slap them in the face.  It's quite well explained by many autistics that they recall memories (happy and sad) VERY close to how they first experienced them. So a memory gives all the FEELS. Even new thoughts of something hilarious gives all the feels. My daughter experiences life so fully, from her head to her toes. I am autistic, too, but don't share this to the extreme loveliness my daughter does."

"I got in trouble at school often because of it. People's seriousness is funny to us because we see through actions. I also do it when I'm nervous, or I have habits of replaying things in my head as well, and it's like reliving in the moment over and over. I remember my principal and teachers were circled around me once because I was laughing at something someone did and they did not like it. They told me it was not a laughing matter. The more serious they got, the more I laughed. Different approaches are needed. We are not as likely to laugh at things we're passionate about, so really the best thing you can do is change the subject. Yelling at us and punishment will not do anything. My mom used to spank me with a dog leash till I bled and I still laughed through it all. A bit much to share but, just to give you an idea. Definitely just change the direction of the conversation instead."

"Isn't it great to have a kid that can see the funny side of life! My son sometimes does this too (he's 16), and I'm so glad he does. If we can't laugh at things, it would be a pretty depressing place to be. Be thankful for a happy, lighthearted kid, enjoy the moment and laugh along with him. Treasure the moment and remember it when times are hard or you are worried about how happy your kid is (I often worried about that). If it seems to be associated with any negative (eg having a meltdown shortly afterwards) then it might be a coping mechanism, (what a fun way to cope!) and in that case it's an early warning sign so you can reduce stress and hopefully prevent a meltdown. Enjoy your wonderful son!"

"Let him laugh......2 minutes of laughter will boost the immune system for up to 24 hrs.  He'll be the healthiest kid on the block."

"He's happy, he's obviously enjoying something, let him get on with it."

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Journal Writing

One of the things that make Calder happy is when Mommy finds time to guide him in journal writing at the end of the day. Actually, unless I want to introduce a new vocabulary or encourage him to expand his scope of coverage, he doesn't really need guidance any more. I can just sit beside and nod at every sentence he writes, then as part of our routine, get him to read aloud the entry once over before giving him a hi-5 and then a hi-10.

Journal writing is best done when we have spent the day together, because then I can help him find the words to express his experiences. I have tried asking him to write journal when he's spent a day in school but we would get stuck if there's something he cannot put into words. Also, it's difficult to check accuracy when I haven't been with him. The best time is when he has had an unusual day with me. Then he would learn many new phrases and terms just by putting them down in words.

Until Calder started journalling, I never knew he noticed the things around him. He never spoke about them, so it was with great surprise that I found out he remembers them. It could be a phrase I used for a food he ate (e.g. "pork soft-bone") that many months later made its way into his journal, when he ate the food again. 

Left to his own device, Calder's journal would be filled with food he ate, transport he took and lift levels he went to. If it's a typical day, one journal record would read just like the previous day's. So I introduce variety by asking him, for example, what someone else ate. Sometimes I asked him to write down important reminders like coming out of the toilet himself instead of waiting for people to call him out.

When he has outings without us, I appreciate deeply when his teachers send me pictures (one or two would suffice) so I can ask what he was doing in those pictures if he has not already volunteered the details of that outing.

How did Calder begin writing journals? It probably started some five years ago, when he was 8. One day, I took a good nap. Yes, the "good nap" is crucial information because it gave me the extra presence of mind to suggest doing something different for bedtime. Calder's usual bedtime consisted of Bible story reading and a short prayer before his Daddy or I kissed him on his forehead goodnight. On this day, I was so energised I ventured to ask him what we did during the day.

Silence. Instead of giving up, I decided to help him answer the question. "We ate pao for breakfast..." I fetched a piece of paper and started drawing as I related what he did during the day. We stopped when we reached the end of the paper. That's when the teacher in me decided to get him to state, as I pointed to the drawings and short phrases, what he experienced during the day.

The next night - we did the same. And the following night too. On the fourth night, I was too tired to go through the whole procedure again. Very nonchalantly, I asked, "So what did Calder do today?" Imagine my surprise when he volunteered the correct answer without first hearing my "model answer". And using "and then?" I slowly coaxed the rest of the day's experience from him.

What a breakthrough! Calder has his own mind! He does register things!

Today, we have a collection of Calder's journals that he likes to read through. Sometimes he would even laugh reading them. He looks especially proud when I take pictures of his journal to send to a friend or relative who has been remembered in that day's journal.

Calder's journal, though simply written, has astounded many people. He can recall colours of seats he took, songs he sang, names etc. It is good evidence and a necessary reminder that behind the odd clapping and bouncing and otherwise-silence is a thinking boy who observes and remembers.

I look forward to the day when Calder can communicate with us not only through his journal but via conversations as well.