Bear in mind the need for laughter and take advantage of the opportunity to indulge in it while you read this post from first time Different Dream guest blogger Catherine Boyle. This post comes with an anti-beverage warning. Catherine and I would hate for you to spew hot coffee or a cold soft drink out your nose while reading.
My husband and I enjoyed many moments in our kids’ growing up years that were absolutely hilarious. Much to my chagrin, more than a handful of those things occurred because of overzealous parenting on my part.
Laughter Can Be Unexpectedly Dangerous
In spite of the aforementioned parenting zeal, my son wasn’t diagnosed with high functioning autism until his late teens. As a result of this lack of knowledge, there were several adolescent developmental milestones that I anticipated way too early.
When my son was in fifth grade, I signed up to drive carpool for a field trip to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. At the time, we had a large vehicle that could accommodate seven kids. So I drove an hour and a half with seven chattering, loud, laughing ten-year-old boys.
I was the only adult in the car, and listening to their conversation and zest for life was quite entertaining. I knew what I signed up for that day, but the truth was I could hardly hear myself think. All of a sudden, quite unexpectedly, there was deathly silence. One pre-pubescent voice cracked through the silence, uttering the punch line to a joke, “Circumcise a bear!”
Peals of laughter immediately filled the quiet. It was all I could do not to crash the car. My shoulders shook and my eyes watered from suppressing my own laughter.
Some weeks after the comment about the unfortunate bear, I gingerly launched into a carefully thought out monologue with my son. Conversations and comments about girls were no longer the same stuff of his early elementary school years. His body was changing; his mind was changing too. I informed him that very soon, he would be thinking a lot about girls.
He listened politely, with a puzzled look on his face. It was quite clear to me that he had no idea why we were having this conversation. Gently, I asked him, “When you’re by yourself, what do you think about?”
He thought seriously for a moment, then said, “I mostly think about Star Wars.”
Laughter is Necessary
There’s a lot that’s difficult in raising a kid with high functioning autism; our family has had more than our share of tears. Humorous moments do not diminish the tough times of raising a kid with some extra challenges. But enjoying life and laughter in spite of the challenges can help kids develop resilience, learn that tough days do not last forever, and keep your marriage strong.
There are actually some benefits to high functioning autism. Aspie kids are often late bloomers socially. That means there is more time to explain the nuance and subtlety that comes with romantic relationships. And the truth is, no one gets through adolescence unscathed when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. In this way, Aspie kids and neurotypical kids are blessedly similar.
So while Aspie differences provide challenges, those very same differences can provide humor for the whole family. And parents get a little extra time to help kids learn how to handle adult issues like romance.
Or surgical procedures on wild animals.
Catherine Boyle is Mental Health Ministry Director, Blog Editor and Social Media Manager for Key Ministry. Catherine has been impacted by mental health issues her entire life, including her own struggles with anorexia, bulimia, anxiety and depression. Prior to joining Key Ministry in 2018, Catherine authored Hungry Souls: What the Bible Says About Eating Disorder, and helped launch a ministry home for women with eating disorders. In 2015, Catherine founded Outside In Ministries, focusing on how the church can minister to and with people with mental health issues. Follow Catherine’s work here and at www.catherineboyle.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Patreon.
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