Is It Funny

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					                                    Is It Funny?
                Developing Humor in Students with Visual Impairments

                                 Alana Zambone, Ph.D.
                         Paul Pagliano, Ph.D., Pat Kelley, Ed. D.,

1. Identifying Humor What is it?
    • Humor is the quality of being funny
    • Makes us happy
    • Gives us pleasure
    • Enjoy the ridiculous

2. Humor helps us:
    • Release pent-up tensions
    • Cope with adversity
    • Get along with others
    • Introduce controversial ideas

3. Humor is a useful social tool to:
    • Capture attention of a group
    • Get people on side
    • Redress a power imbalance

4. Humor
“can tell us about children‟s ability to engage with and understand others” (Reddy,
Williams & Vaughan, 2002, p. 219)

Whether in the realm of objects, behavior, social norms, or language, some form of
nonfitting, unexpected, inappropriate, surprising, or incongruous relationship is always
present in humor (McGhee, 1979, p. 46)

5. Perception of incongruity could lead to:
    • Curiosity
    • Fear
    • Amusement

6. Humor requires these skills:
    • Interpersonal
    • Affective
    • Socio-cognitive
    • Cultural

   •   Many of these are visual

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7. Humor is social:
    • Can be appreciated alone but we laugh more with others
    • Humor “exists between people rather than in the joke itself” (Reddy et al., 2002,
      p. 219)

8. A man came upon a Pygmy in the jungle standing over a dead lion so he asked him
how he killed it.

“With my club” the Pygmy replied.

“Must have been a big club” the man said.

“Yes there‟s 20 of us” explained the Pygmy.

9. Humor is “bound to its time, society, cultural anthropology” (Eco, 1986

10. Appreciation of humor depends on:
    • Ability (appreciated through all the senses but particularly through vision)
    • Prior experience (likely to be reduced in infants with visual impairment)
    • Stage of development (will need to be explicitly taught using non-visual
       adaptations with children with visual impairment)

11. Is everyone a comedian?
    • “Everyone is born with the potential for humor – the ability to find things funny
        and make people laugh.” (McGhee, 2002).
    • “The good news is, seeing funny [sic] can be learned – and it‟s contagious.”
        (Bhaerman, 2004).

12. This is as important as O&M and Braille?
    • Humor is essential to cognitive and social development because it
            – Locks in memories
            – Teaches life lessons
            – Teaches how to make meaning of communication (tone, expression,
                context), not just the language
            – Creates social bonds and can help teach social skills
Trout, 1998

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13. So I have to teach humor too?
    • Humor is essential to good self esteem and mental health, it:
            – Reduces stress and anxiety by shifting our perspective
            – Helps us connect with others
            – Replaces distressing emotions with pleasurable feelings
            – Changes how we behave and increases energy
            – Decreases stress hormones and increases infection-fighting antibodies
            – And it feels good!
Sultanoff, 1995

14. But braille proficiency gets you a diploma!
Teaching humor can:
    • Increase vocabulary
    • Expand world knowledge
    • Develop metalinguistic awareness
    • Improve comprehension of figurative language
    • Improve visual awareness
    • Improve problem-solving skills
Specter, 1992

15. Is humor in the „Expanded Core Curriculum‟?
    • Humor is everywhere – classroom lectures, discussions, and school texts – if you
        don‟t “get it” you can experience social isolation and miss key concepts and
        constructs (Specter, 1992)
    • Humor fosters creativity and divergent thinking. Without it, thought processes and
        problem solving may often be rigid and narrowly focused
        (Bhaerman, 2004; McGhee, 1995; Specter, 1992

16. And this relates to what developmental domain?
    • Wit is the cognitive experience
    • Mirth is the emotional experience
    • Laughter is the physiological experience
You do not have to laugh to experience humor!
Sultanoff, 1995; p. 1

17. Infant may begin…
    • By becoming curious, being captivated by the novelty
    • If novelty is too extreme infant may become anxious
    • If a „play signal‟ is provided this permits infant to take pleasure in the event
    • Infant with visual impairment may miss the „play signal‟ if it is visual so
        repertoire of non-visual signals will need to be devised e.g., silly noises

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18. Development of Humor in Infants: Pre-humor Age: 0 - 2 months
Source of Humor
    • Week 1 during sleep, results from spontaneous activity of the CNS
    • Week 2 -3 first wakeful smile, tends to occur after feeding
    • End of Month 1 combo of mothers voice & tactile stimulation
    • The real social smile appears at 6-8 weeks

19. Development of Humor in Infants: Pre-humor Age: 2 - 4 months
Source of Humor
    • Month 2 smile broader connected to broader range of events (moving objects or
    • Month 3 or 4 meaningfulness of events (unmoving face)
    • Between 3 & 6 months: smile of recognition (moderate amount of effort)

20. Development of Humor in Infants: Pre-humor Age: 4 – 6 months
Source of Humor
    • Ability to form specific expectations and recognize violations of these
    • Auditory & physical cues. ( Kissing stomach, Gonna get you, lip popping)

21. Development of Humor in Infants: Pre-humor Age: 7-9 months
Source of Humor
    • Events that are discrepant from familiar. Violation of expectations, yet safe &
    • Response to tactile items begins to decrease & response to visual human items
    • Auditory & tactile cues (Squeaky voices, peek-a-boo, chasing, jiggling over head)

22. Development of Humor in Infants: Pre-humor Age: 9-12 month
Source of Humor
    • Visual & social items (peek-a-boo, covered face, shaking hair, disappearing
    • Produce discrepant events (covering adults face, repeating actions)

23. Development of Humor: Stage 1 Age: 12 mon.– 2 years
Source of Humor
   • Incongruous actions toward objects {Sensorimotor (Piaget)/ Presocial
   • Incongruous labeling of objects and events

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24. Development of Humor: Stage 2 Age: 2 – 3 years
Source of Humor
    • Use of words to create incongruities [Preoperational (Piaget)/ Impulsive
    • Sounds of words distorted [preschoolers do not memorize or repeat same joke]

25. Development of Humor: Stage 3 Age : 3 – 7 years
Source of Humor
   • Conceptual incongruity (advances in language development) [Concrete
       operational (Piaget)/Self-protective (Loevinger)]
   • Perceive varying degrees of incongruity (development of perceptual orientation)
   • Gender changes
   • Repetitious rhyming of words & creation of nonsense words

26. Age: 7 years-adulthood [just becomes more sophisticated]
Development of Humor: Stage 4

Source of Humor
   • Multiple meanings (e.g. puns)
   • First signs of logic (e.g. Riddles)
   • Concrete operational thinking (Piagetian)[less egocentric]

27. Forms of Humor

Figural         Visual (Physical)   Verbal           Auditory

Comic books     Impressions         Jokes            Impressions
Comic strips    Impersonations      Puns             Impersonations
Political       Mime                Riddles          Noises
Cartoons        Pantomime           Satire           Sounds
Cartoons        Practical Jokes     Parody
Caricatures     Slapstick           Irony
                Sight gags          Wit

28. Forms of Humor: Elementary Age:
   Figural
   Visual (Physical)
       Finding Nemo
       Captain Underpants
       Falling down or spilling things, without injury resulting

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29. Forms of Humor: Elementary Age
   Verbal
What did the sock say to the foot?
You‟re putting me on!
A three-legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West. He sides up to the bar and
announces, "I'm looking for the man who shot my paw"!

   Auditory
Sounds of body functions
Kissing sounds

30. Forms of Humor: Jr. High Age
   Figural
   Visual (Physical)
          o Adam Sandler movies
          o Finding Nemo
          o Mike Myers movies
          o Trunk monkey commercial
          o Imitating teachers/adults

31. Forms of Humor: Jr. High Age
                   Verbal
Lemony Snicket books
Redneck & Here‟s your sign jokes
You Might Be A Redneck If . . .
    • your front porch collapses and four dogs get killed.
    • that billboard that says, “Say No To Crack” reminds you to pull up your jeans.
    • your wife‟s hairdo was ever ruined by a ceiling fan.
    • you go to your family reunions looking for a date.

   • Bathroom noises
   • Body functions

32. Forms of Humor: High School Age
          • Figural
          • Visual (Physical)
                • Prat falls
                • Beavis & Butthead
                • Aquateens
                • South Park
                • Gross things
                • Punk‟d

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33. Forms of Humor: High School Age
    • Verbal
       • No one fails a class anymore, he's merely "passing impaired."
       • You don't have detention, you're just one of the "exit delayed."
       • Your homework isn't missing, its just having an "out-of-notebook
    • Auditory
       • Curse words
       • Rodney Carrington

34. Forms of Humor: College Age
    • Why college is like preschool:
    • Playing in the snow is a legitimate activity
    • You cross the street without looking for cars
    • Snack time is a necessity
    • You take naps
    • You stay home & play games with your friends

   • Toilet flushing (ex. All in the Family)
   • Animal noises

35. Key points about humor development
    • Although we may appreciate humor when alone, it is much more enjoyable in the
       presence of others
    • Laughter peaks around age 3
    • Opportunities for humor arise in presence of others & their reactions play
       important role in establishment of more individualized pattern of humor

36. Key points about humor development
    • Sex differences are the single largest source of individual differences in humor
    • Basic pattern of change in humor at different ages depends on underlying changes
       in intellectual development
    • Things are funnier if they are emotionally charged.

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37. OK, I can teach this too! (I am the Vision Teacher!)
    • Humor „curriculum and instruction‟ includes:
           – Feedback
           – Mediated Exposure
           – Reframing
           – Direct Instruction and Practice
           – Social Instruction
           – Planning and Coaching

38. Humor „curriculum and instruction‟ includes:
          – Feedback
          – Mediated Exposure
          – Reframing
          – Direct Instruction and Practice
          – Social Instruction
          – Planning and Coaching

39. Feedback
    • From infancy, the best “direct instruction” in humor is feedback – eliciting and
       responding to their laughter. This can look like:
    • Silly voices, noises and kisses repeated with great enthusiasm when the child
       responds -- the key in Infancy is that you act silly and the baby laughs
Frankel, 2003

40. Feedback
    • 1 – 2 years, the kids act silly and you laugh!
           – Putting on rubber ears and a nose that squeaks when squeezed or using
              sippy cups that make noises when you‟re almost done with your drink –
           – Playing pretend – when your child waves a stick and you turn into a
              barking dog
Frankel, 2003

41. Feedback
    • By preschool, language opens new doors– you just have to be sure to laugh and
       imitate. Help little ones
           – call things by the wrong name
           – riff on a word (rap, cockney slang)
           – imitate sound effects from cartoons, computerized toys, and their own
               bodies (but beware, not everyone outgrows this last form of humor)
           – Change song lyrics and poems
Frankel, 2003

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42. Feedback
    • As children‟s humor evolves with their development and learning
          – Be sure to laugh, no matter how lame the joke
          – Don‟t laugh when it might be hurtful humor – but do explain why it isn‟t
             “appropriate” humor
          – Model humor, particularly when children are upset, scared, or confused –
             cry louder than they are, shake, wail, and cling to them on that street

43. Mediated Exposure
With your student:
    • Read lots of riddle books and other sources of humor
    • “Pump ironies” – Use exaggeration to raise awareness of things such as
       oxymorons (jumbo shrimp) or begin with the phrase “How come” (how come I
       spent so much money during my „free time‟?)
Bhaerman, 2004

44. Mediated Exposure
    • Practice identifying funny – Look for multiple meanings in bloopers, want ads,
      real signs, etc. Bhaerman, 2004
    • Let them know when you are using irony, exaggeration, or other forms of humor
      to make a point or defuse a situation. Point it out in texts, lectures, or other

45. Reframing
Reframing – shifting the context -- is critical for helping students use humor to resolve
incongruities, shift emotions, and relieve anxiety
    • Have them say things in a different way: “ I‟m a failure” becomes “I‟m was very
       successful today at failing that division test”
    • Have them repeat their report of an experience, beginning with the phrase “A
       funny thing happened to me yesterday on the playground”

46. Direct Instruction & Practice
    • Break down humor into its elements and find out where your student might be
       having problems
            – Linguistic elements
            – Conceptual understanding and general knowledge
            – Vocabulary comprehension
            – Abstraction
            – Perspective taking
Specter, 1992

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47. Linguistic Elements
    • Specter (1992) offers four broad categories of linguistic elements
           – Lexical items (“Janitors call for sweeping reform”)
           – Phonological (sound and word reversals such as The difference between a
               cat and a comma)
           – Morphological (“What pet makes the best music? A trumpet!” “Sign in a
               pottery shop: Feats of clay.” )
           – Syntactic (“When the first diet club was formed it was a “losing
               proposition.” or Julie: “Do you realize it takes three sheep to make one
               sweater?” Bill: I didn‟t even know that sheep could knit.”)
p. 21

48. Linguistic Elements
    • Identify where the child is having difficulty by presenting various examples of
       humor relying on the different linguistic elements
    • Find examples of interest to your student that rely on the elements the student is
       having difficulty with, e.g. riddles often rely on phonological elements
    • Combine oral and written presentations with “helpful hints” such as “What dog
       has money? A bloodhound because he is always picking up scents/cents.
    • Have students change the rate or pronunciation of words and phrases
    • Use questions to “unpack” something a student doesn‟t „get‟ such as a joke that is
       a twist on an idiom like “I know that owl is sick because he doesn’t give a hoot.”
Specter, 1992, p. 23

49. Conceptual Understanding and General Knowledge
    • Making sure students have the necessary concepts and experiences is as important
       in humor as it is in all other areas:
           – Find humor that relies on concepts students are learning in social studies,
              literacy, or other academic areas, e.g. “What did Delaware/Della wear?
              Idaho, Alaska. She wore her New Jersey!” Use it to both reinforce new
              concepts and refine their “humor skills”
           – Conversely, encourage them to use humor to understand and remember
           – Teach/expose students to popular culture and if they don‟t “get”
              something, then teach them how to ask or find out --

50. Abstraction
    • Help students identify an incongruity and resolve it – show how it makes sense
       e.g. as Groucho Marx said: “Outside of a dog, a book is man‟s best friend. Inside
       of a dog, it‟s too dark to read.”
    • Use multiple choice for the “punchline” or answer to a question; or have children
       match the elements of a riddle or pun
Specter, 1992

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51. Perspective Taking
    • Have students “act out” physically how someone or something might feel or
       behave in a joke or story
    • Discuss with them the comments or stories of someone who uses humor to
       resolve an incongruity or relay something that happened to them

52. Perspective Taking
    • Have students tell you things that they‟ve done or that happened to them, then
       retell it as if
           – they were another person that was there too – How would your Mom tell
                 that story about the ice cream flying from the cone to the windshield?
           – they were going to tell the story to someone different – How would you
                 tell your buddy Ahmoud about that? How about your Uncle?

53. Social Instruction: Appropriate vs. Inappropriate Humor
Social instruction addresses
    • How to poke fun at a situation – not another person or group
    • Appropriate humor stimulates wit, mirth, and laughter; defuses a situation; and
        releases tension
    • Inappropriate humor creates pain and distance; increases tension, and can

54. Social Instruction: When to Use Humor
    • When another person uses it with you (e.g. Playing the Dozens or Scolding)
    • When you have a strong relationship with the other person vs. when you are
       getting to know them
    • When the situation is socially appropriate (e.g. a party, not a church service)
    • When you aim it at yourself
Sutanoff, 1995

55. Planning and Coaching
    • Encourage the student to collect humor
    • Have the student keep a „humor journal‟ of things people say that seem funny to
       her. When you use something from your „humor journal‟ share its history with the
    • Offer models and encourage children to create their own humor
    • Create scripts and humorous stories (adapt from the “social stories” research)

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56. Finally, the bad news
    • As in any critical area, instruction in humor takes:
            – Thoughtful planning
            – An understanding of your student as a learner and an individual
            – A deep knowledge of your content
            – A capacity for joy and silliness and irony

57. And . . . The Good News
    • Humor curriculum and instruction can
            – Be embedded in any and every teaching and learning experience
            – Deepen and enrich the student‟s mastery of content knowledge, skills, and
                concepts across developmental and academic domains
            – Help stabilize emotions such as frustration and boredom (yours and the
            – Provide opportunities for peer interaction and cooperative learning
            – Be fun to research and plan for!

58. References
    • On-line journal of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor. February.
    • Chaney, C. (1993). Young children’s jokes: Developmental perspective. Presented
       at Western States Communication Association Conference. (ERIC Document
       Reproduction Service no. ED358967).
    • Eco, U. (1986). The comic and the rule. In Travels in hyperreality. London: Pan
    • Frankel, V. (2003). The fun of funny kids. Parenting. 17, 8, 122-127
    • Honig, A. S. (1988). Humor development in children. Young Children 43(4), 60-
    • Jalongo, M. R. (1985). Children‟s literature: There‟s some sense to its humor.
       Childhood Education 62(2), 109-114.
    • James, D. (2001). Split a gut and learn: Theory and research. (ERIC Document
       Reproduction Service no. ED458671).
    • Krogh, S. (1985). He who laughs first: The importance of humor to young
       children. Early Child Development and Care 20, 287-299.
    • McGhee, P. E. (1979). Humor: Its origin and development. San Francisco: W.H.
       Freeman and Co.
    • McGhee, P. (2002). Understanding and promoting the development of children’s
       humor: Stumble bees and Pelephones. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt
    • Reddy, V., Williams, E., & Vaughan, A. (2002). Sharing humour and laughter in
       autism and Down's syndrome. British Journal of Psychology, 93, 219-242.
    • Shade, R. A. (1996). License to laugh: Humor in the classroom. Englewood, CO:
       Teacher Ideas Press.

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   •   Specter, C. (1992). Remediating humor comprehension deficits in language-
       impaired students. Language, speech, and hearing services in schools. 23, 1, 20-
   •   Sroufe, A. & Wunsch, J. P. (1972). The development of laughter in the first year
       of life. Child Development 43, 1326-1344.
   •   Sultanoff, S. (1995). What is humor? Therapeutic Humor, 9, 3,1-2.

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