It is commonly believed that the sense of humor is a casualty of autism; that somehow the ability to understand humor dies with the ability to understand or use language. I do not believe this. Humor is a highly personalized sense; what makes me giggle often makes my own mamma roll her eyes. And so it is with my own children, and especially with my Luke. It is not uncommon for him to break into uncontrollable laughter at what seems to be a completely normal situation. Perhaps something he sees triggers a memory that I am not privileged to share, or maybe there really is something funny about that field of freshly plowed dirt he stares at through the window of our passing car. Either way, Luke enjoys his sense of humor, and it is a beautiful thing to witness.
Most recently, Luke has discovered the joy of the blowfish face. That’s not so different; I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a good blowfish face from time to time? Luke, however, has taken it from a momentary exchange of goofiness to a method of connecting with the people around him. He has learned, through lots and lots of testing, that when a typical person is confronted with a blowfish face, it is virtually impossible not to meet that with an equally silly, if not down right ridiculous, blowfish face.
Case and point:
My amazing husband is met at the door every evening by blowfish face. The exchange that follows is one that the casual observer would discount as a playful father-son moment. However, as I watched last night’s interaction, I saw so much more. I saw my boy connecting with his dad on a most intimate and loving level. I saw him share his desire to communicate as they exchanged silly blowfish faces. I saw them sharing a moment that was funny to both the giver and the receiver and an understanding that we all enjoyed the same happy emotion.
In that moment, we were all on the same playing field, speaking the same language, and reacting with the same giggles. I imagined Luke thinking, “Look at me; I am not so very different. You and I do the same face, and we both laugh. I am yours and you are mine. We are connected by this silly face that we both share.”
Blowfish face can quickly get out of hand, however. The game is so completely stimulating that Luke simply cannot contain his emotions and they overflow into self-stimulatory behavior (commonly know as, “stims,” in the autism world). He runs and prances about while biting his finger on one hand and pounding on his leg with the other. It is a reaction that has become commonplace to those who know him best and is brought on by any sudden change of emotion – both positive and negative. Once he bites, the game must end, but the joy of the moment becomes part of Luke’s world – maybe a moment that will bring the back seat giggles at passing fields.
So, if you see us out and about and are greeted by an up close and personal blowfish face, please understand that this is Luke’s own unique sense of humor seeking to connect with you and reciprocate with an equally impressive blowfish face of your own.