By Mary Fetzer
Mark Joseph offers parenting advice on his website Parentalqueries.com. But he had his own questions when his son was diagnosed with ADHD.
“I had no idea what to do,” he says, “but I noticed that my son often used humor to cope with stressful situations at school, at home and even in social settings.”
Joseph observed how this sense of humor could diffuse tension, changing the atmosphere from fearful to calm.
“A joke or two would help bring some fun and humor into the situation,” he said.
In “The Humor of ADHD,” an article recently published by Psychology Today, Kristin Wilcox affectionately describes being entertained by her child with ADHD.
“My ADHD son is the master of puns and one-liners,” writes Wilcox, a pharmacologist, neuroscientist and author of Andrew’s Awesome Adventures with His ADHD Brain. “His comical antics and sense of humor constantly make me laugh.”
Wilcox writes that while “sense of humor” and “good at puns” don’t appear on the official list of ADHD symptoms, individuals with ADHD often are really funny.
Jacquelyn Dupras agrees. An ADHD and executive function coach in Westfield, N.J., she says she is “delighted” to work with the amazing children who make her laugh so often.
“Whether it’s making silly faces, me calling them out on their ‘stories’ or just a fun way to connect, laughter and a good sense of humor usually are present with my clients,” she says. “Many of the children with ADHD that I work with are joy-filled and super-smart. They’re quick-witted comedians who are just waiting for their stand-up side gig!”
Impulsivity has its advantages
“Children with ADHD are funny because they are impulsive, and they often say the first thing that pops into their head,” says Kristen Eccelston, director of social-emotional services at Weinfeld Education Group, which provides special education advocacy in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Eccleston explains that kids with ADHD may speak before they think because they often experience cognitive processing after their words have been spoken.
“Let’s face it, that impulsivity leads to some great one-liners,” she adds. “And the innocence of children helps them get away with saying some pretty funny stuff!”
Humor can help kids cope
Some experts believe that children with ADHD use humor as a coping mechanism to deal with the challenges and difficulties they face in everyday life
“Using humor can be a way for children with ADHD to lighten the mood, diffuse tense situations and make themselves feel better,” says Alyson Young, owner of Learning Lab in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which provides individualized instruction for children with learning differences like ADHD.
Mo Mulla is the father of two kids and founder of the blog Parental Questions, which provides resources for parents with unique and complicated questions about parenting. He agrees that kids with ADHD can use humor to cope with feelings of frustration, anxiety and boredom.
“Children with ADHD often employ humor to engage others and draw attention away from their behavior in social situations,” Mulla says. “Humor acts as an outlet for expression since it helps provide a sense of control over circumstances that may be out of the child’s control.”
Being funny is creative social currency
Joking around can be a way for children with ADHD to express themselves creatively and connect with others. Dupras explains that her social and fun-loving young clients prefer to laugh than feel the ridicule and harshness of life around them.
“When you are carrying feelings of being disconnected from your peers, a joke may be just what’s needed,” she says. “Making others laugh can help them feel more accepted and valued, which can be especially important for children who struggle with social skills.”
Laughter is medicine
“Laughter releases endorphins, which creates joy and happiness,” Mulla says. “This is especially important for children who feel overwhelmed by their circumstances or surroundings.”
Dupras says that, like any kid, a child with ADHD wants to be liked and have friends.
“I’m sure many children with ADHD have found that humor brings everyone closer and makes life easier,” she says. “Everything is more fun when humor is in the mix.”