The Importance of Laughter When Teaching Children With Special Needs

In working with children with special needs and their families for nearly 18 years, I can honestly say that the old cliche “laughter is the best medicine” rings true. Being a teacher, therapist, caregiver or parent of a child with special needs is certainly stressful at times, but it also brings many joys and special pleasures each and every day. Laughter can actually help speed the physical and mental recovery process, thus it is beneficial not only to the caregivers, but to the children themselves. By keeping and using our sense of humor and bursting out in laughter, we can keep ourselves from bursting from stress.

As parents, therapists and teachers, we can keep our own sense of humor by nurturing the child’s sense of humor and recognizing the joys in their every accomplishment, no matter how small. We can inject humor into our daily routines at home or in the classroom by reading silly stories, singing comical songs, playing dress-up along with the kids, or hosting special days such as “Pajama Party Day” or “Crazy Hat Day”.

We can remember to focus on the present and celebrate a child’s smile or their contagious giggle and try not to think of what the future may or may not hold. By nurturing and preserving our sense of humor, children, therapists and parents alike can continue to cope with what outsiders might perceive to be an incomprehensibly difficult situation. Even children with the most severe disabilities, who may not even walk or talk, can connect with their caregivers through laughter and I have shared many a heartfelt giggle with the best of them.

It’s been reported that the average preschool child laughs 400 times per day, while the average adult laughs only 15…so by all means start laughing!

By Tamara Guo, M. Ed.