Smarty – April 2013

There were a lot of ridiculous tutorials posted on my favorite crafting blogs on Monday…embellished disposable diapers, hand sewn ruffled toilet paper, meat disguised as cake and cake disguised as meat.  Even Google got in on the fun, promoting their newest product, “Google Nose Beta,” which allowed users to search their “Aromabase” and download “scentibytes.”

Smarties has a goofy craft for April too, but this isn’t an April Fool’s Joke! It is a homemade chia buddy!

The instructions are simple and the results are adorable.  With a few household items and some chia seed (try your local health food store) you can make a basic chia buddy form that can be decorated to look like a person or animal.  Children of all ages can participate in making their chia buddy.  If your child is (or will be) working on one of the Skills® sequencing lessons take some pictures (before assembly, before decoration, after assembly and decoration, when the seeds 1st sprout, and with a full head of hair).  These photos can also be used for the following Skills lessons: “Concrete Cause and Effect” in the Cognition Curriculum, “Same/Different” (make two chia buddies) and “Tell a Story” in the Language Curriculum, and “Episodic Memory” in the Executive Functions curriculum.

I love how silly these little guys turn out!  The growth of the seeds adds some unpredictability and humor to the final result.  Once the seeds sprout, you may find a stray “hair” growing out of the chia buddy’s ear or mouth.  If you’re up for the task you might even try to plant a beard or mustache!

Goofy objects and absurdities (e.g. a sprout growing out of the Chia’s nose) are an excellent starting point for teaching humor.  Humor is both a developmental process and cultural experience.  Many children with ASD have difficulty appreciating or understanding aspects of humor.  Practical jokes can be particularly challenging.  Children with ASD may perceive the joke as a lie and therefore inappropriate.  They may feel scared or anxious when something is not as they expected or they may miss the humor altogether.  When children with ASD do understand the humor in a practical joke they may not have the inhibition skills to keep the secret or play along with the joke.

The Skills Social Curriculum has an entire domain devoted to teaching children to understand and use absurdities in speech and action.  One of the lessons in this domain is humor and jokes.  The lesson is extensive (31 lesson activities!), and covers many forms of humor.  It starts with teaching concepts related to humor (e.g. what does it mean to be funny?) and moves on to teaching children to recognize when other people are responding to humor and how to recognize and respond to humor.

Because humor is both personal and cultural, your child will have a different sense of humor than you or her friends.  Humor is also continually evolving as people are exposed to new things.  (For example, my 4-year-old has recently discovered the joy of potty humor.) It is important to teach generally accepted “social norms” of humor, but teaching humor also involves helping your child discover what they find humorous.  Finding (and laughing about) environmental oddities and things that are visually amusing (like a funny billboard, a car painted to look like a mouse, a tree growing sideways, or your child’s new chia buddy) is a great place to start.

PS – Happy ASD Awareness Month!  There are puzzles and blue everywhere on facebook!  I love all the attention ASD is getting!