Laughing Out Loud
By Judith Maginnis Kuster
I began this column with a smile (and ended it laughing out loud) but also with some apprehension, remembering the day I received an e-mail in response to a section on the Stuttering Home Page called "On The Lighter Side" (www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster/humor.html). This is a site where persons who stutter share humorous anecdotes about their stuttering . The e-mail said, "There is absolutely nothing funny about stuttering. I hate it and I hate myself."
Web Whispers (www.webwhispers.org/) is dedicated to Laryngectomee Rehabilitation. Included on this site is a "Humor Collection" introduced with the following: "Like all things, there IS a humorous side...that lends perspective and balance to life in general [and] demonstrate[s] there is justifiable humor to be found in all things...humor and laughter...makes any life worth living."
Deaf Humor (http://pages.ivillage.com/cl-loluv/id20.html) is an e-zine for people who are deaf and hard of hearing that provides "gentle humor about the world of deaf/hearing impaired folks!" The front page of this site includes an old Red Skelton joke "about a young deaf boy who used sign language. One day he told his mother a dirty joke and she washed his hands out with soap."
Making fun of disability is certainly not funny, but in the process of healing and developing shared understanding, humor can play an important role. Humor also has power to heal and is a good indicator of progress in dealing with the emotional baggage many of our clients and their families carry. Not only can it be appropriate, when they are ready, to lead people to find humor in their personal difficulties, it is also an appropriate treatment goal to help our clients understand humor or develop the skill to share humorous stories.
Clients with right hemisphere lesions may seem language competent yet display a subtle problem associated with this disorder -- failure to recognize humor (www.emedicine.com/pmr/topic153.htm). Persons living with aphasia may enjoy hearing and retelling short jokes or riddles as part of the process of rebuilding auditory memory and expressive skills. People who stutter often have difficulty with the timing necessary to tell some jokes effectively. Pragmatic skill building may include understanding and sharing humor. Turn taking and responding are additional pragmatic skills that jokes and riddles may develop. Clients may enjoy practicing speech or language skills using material from some of the following sites:
Knock Knock Jokes -- Turn Taking
Madlibs -- Vocabulary Building; Parts of Speech
Tongue Twisters -- Speech Sounds and Rate
Riddles and Jokes -- Pragmatic Skills
- AzKidsNet (www.azkidsnet.com/JSknockjoke.htm)
Finally, it is healthy for professionals and students to find humor in our occupations and in ourselves. For working with a child with an articulation problem I once innocently recommended a freely available little book on the Internet by saying, "It is full of f-words." Fox and Frog (www.readinga-z.com/newfiles/aloud/foxandfrog.html). The following two Web sites provide unique insight into speech-language pathology and audiology humor.
Discussion forums provide an opportunity to talk about serious matters with colleagues. They also offer an opportunity for some fun. While writing this column on a grey and cloudy fall day, I posted on the Division 4 (Fluency and Fluency Disorders) mailing list about a potential student major who recently filled out a form stating that her intended major was "Speech Mythology." I requested additional humorous anecdotes, and laughed so hard at some of the responses, my colleague in the next office asked what was going on. Here are a few:
- "When I was doing my CFY in a maximum security prison, I was introduced by the warden as a 'speech mythologist.' Maybe that was his grandchild who wanted to get into your class."
- "On a treatment plan, one of my students wrote that she was going to use a 'fish bowel activity' -- I guess 'bowl' has two syllables in her dialect..."
- "As you all know, 'b' and 'v' are next to one another on the keyboard. Many years ago at one of the ASHA conventions, I attended a business meeting of university clinic supervisors. Part of the meeting was devoted to students' report writing bloopers. One supervisor told the story of a student who wrote something like the following on a diagnostic report, 'The client exhibited numerous errors when saying consonant sounds, but he produced bowel sounds without any difficulty.'"
- "On my last course evaluation, one of my students wrote that it should be recommended that students have a stronger background in 'necrology' before enrolling in my fluency course." (This post precipitated a flurry of dark responses about "dead pan" lecture styles and being "dead serious" about stuttering.)
- "On an intake form for a fluency eval in response to the question, 'When did you first notice the stuttering?,' [a client] wrote, 'After being run over by a water buffalo.'" (The author added, "I hate it when that happens." A quick response to her post was, "How fast was he running?")
Judith Kuster is in the department of speech, hearing, and rehabilitation services at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All of Kusters Internet columns are on the ASHA Web site in HTML format with active links http://www.asha.org/about/publications/leader-online/archives/news.htm, although URLs change and there is no guarantee that links from previous articles are still functional.
Kuster, JM, Laughing Out Loud!, ASHA Leader, February 8, 2005, p. 30-31.