In two weeks we will all wish each other a happy New Year. And many people with autism will also receive that wish. But what if we turn that wish into concrete actions that can really make a difference in the happiness of people with autism? In the last weeks before New Year I post 10 concrete actions that can make 2022 a happy/happier year for autistic people. No super big, impressive, world changing actions, but little things that can make a difference. Small interventions, based on theory and research, that can easily be applied and that can make life in 2022 a (more) H.A.P.P.Y. life for someone (or more people) on the autism spectrum. Make your New Year’s Resolutions for an autism-friendly 2022 concrete and join me in 10 easy to do autism friendly well-being actions. And remember: no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Tip #5: A daily laughter
A day without laughter is a day wasted.Charlie Chaplin
Humor is an powerful antidote to stress. A good laugh has great short term effects on our body: it activates and suppresses the stress response, resulting in a decreased heart rate and blood pressure. Laughing also increases the feel-good chemicals in our brain, known as endorphins. And it aids muscle relaxation. On the long term, laughter improves our immune system , makings us stronger in our fight against stress. A good laugh can also help lessen depression and anxiety. So, laughter is indispensable on the feel-good menu.
One of the many misunderstandings about autism is that autistic people lack a sense of humor. Obviously, because of their different information processing style, the things that make them laugh might be a bit different. Depending on their cognitive abilities, some forms of humor might be a too difficult or too abstract. Find out what makes the autistic person laugh, giggle, smile or guffaw. Some appreciate word play, written jokes and funny sayings and even cartoons that express literal understanding of words, like the ones I made for the Autitude magazine of Scottish Autism.
For other people on the autism spectrum, it is more concrete and visual things that make them laugh, like comic strips, funny drawings, slapstick (yes, Charlie Chaplin, but also Mr. Bean).
Collect these tidbits of humour and put them in a box or basket and invite the autistic person to pick one of them every day. Some autistic people enjoy seeing other people laugh, so invite visitors, friends, relatives to pick an item from the box or basket as well.
And dare to do silly things. It is my experience that many autistic people, especially young children and the autistic people with additional learning difficulties, enjoy it when people dress up, wear a silly hat, put on Groucho glasses or a rubber nose. And there’s even more fun when you do some funny dances, like the chicken dance (or for those in The Netherlands and Flanders: the Kabouter Plop dance). One big laugh a day can really make a difference.