Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Don't underestimate the humor of a child with special needs

The photographer who will be shooting Max's bar mitzvah stopped by the other day to go over stuff.

"Should I take pictures of Daddy?" she asked.

"Yes!" said Max.

"Mommy?" she asked

"Yes!" Max acknowledged.


"NO!" said Max, with a big smile on his face. I had to laugh. He was joking—OK, half-joking since Sabrina is obnoxious to him lately. Sometimes, after she's been bugging him, he'll walk around the house and say "New sister!" As in, he would like a replacement.

Max has a great sense of humor. This will not come as a surprise to other parents of children with special needs. But I know it often astounds people who aren't familiar with kids who have special needs. I used to be one of them. 

Before I had Max, I didn't have any children with special needs in my life. When I saw them in public, what I mostly noticed was the disability, and what I mostly felt was pity. Obviously, having Max wholly changed my perspective, one reason I share about him here—I hope others can see what it took me too long to know. Sometimes, people who don't know Max well remark, "Wow, he has a sense of humor!" I get why they this is surprising to them. I wish it weren't.

It isn't just Sabrina that Max laughingly teases. I misplace my iPhone approximately every five minutes, much to the amusement of everyone in my family. "Max, do you know where my phone is?" I asked the other day. He pointed to it. It was in my hand, along with some papers I was carrying. "Ha ha ha!" he announced, with perfect comical timing.

I can tease Max and he knows I'm being funny. When Dave got Max a chocolate milkshake the other day and left it in the fridge, I grabbed it and said, "Max! Thank you so much for the milkshake!" and he cracked up as he said "Noooooo!" When he is being stubborn about using his iPad to communicate and insists on repeatedly articulating a phrase, even though we can't understand it, he laughs when we purposefully make ridiculous guesses (see: "Want to buy a monkey?")

These days, Max appreciates the ridiculous, the silly and the gross. My Facebook friend Stacy J. and I were exchanging notes about this the other day. She mentioned that her son, who is severely disabled and doesn't see well, likes to kick his baby sister lightly and crack up at fart noises, as Max does.

Max doesn't yet do sarcasm. Although Sabrina has enough of it lately for the two of them, I hope he someday has a handle on that. He is, however a master of OMG!, and knows just when to say it for laughs:

Me: "Dave, your mom is coming over soon and I haven't even taken a shower yet!"
Max: "Oh m geeee!"

Back to Sabrina's presence in our family photos, and why I knew Max really was joking. Later that day, he did a practice session with the music teacher for his bar mitzvah. They got to the last song, which he's singing with Sabrina only she was nowhere to be found. Max walked around shouting for her and eventually she emerged from the basement, her preferred hiding spot. They sang it together loudly, Max grinning the whole time. 


  1. A sense of humor is great for life. It is a vital tool to have.

  2. My oldest has a great sense of humor, but I don't think he realizes he's being funny or sarcastic. He's so matter-of-fact that the things he says make us laugh (like when he fell off the bed and when we asked him what he hit, he replied "the floor" ... or the time he said he saw a train, and when I asked him where it was, he replied "on the tracks"). Now he does love making farting noises and laughing at farts and farting in general! I guess farts are the universal language of the male species!

  3. My non-verbal daughter loves to laugh at silliness, but she also laughs when her brother or sister gets in trouble for something. I think that's hilarious, and demonstrates her intelligence beneath her lack of verbal skills. :)

  4. A friend of mine with Kabuki syndrome and Dwarfism is one of if not the funniest person I have ever met.

    (Flutistpride you know who I'm talking about, a certain person by the name of Jack)

  5. Awesome post as always! As Max has learned, farts are always funny. A sense of humor is is a brilliant survival tool in life, which is why I try to be a serious adult as little as possible. I take it as one of my most important duties as a dad to teach my sons the hilarity of farts (sometimes to my wife's chagrin). Haha, I said duties...doodies! My son has CP, and is currently non-verbal - BUT, can communicate so much of his goofy, ornery personality through his laughs and smiles! How else could anyone explain him laughing at his little brother's crocodile tears? Hah!


Thanks for sharing!

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