Humor, Disability, and Education

Humor is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.  Edward de Bono


I was looking for a humorous quote today. It’s been awhile since I posted one. The above quote resonated with me and not for its reference to humor.
My son, Joshua, was born with cerebral palsy. Raising a disabled child is challenging and I’m not talking about the physical aspect of things. I’m going to talk about education.

Joshua was one-year-old when I received a phone call from an angel. Her name was Chris. She asked me if I’d ever heard of Easter Seals. All I remembered about it was taking pennies to school as a child to put in a donation cup.

She told me that Joshua qualified for at-home services. She was an occupational therapist and could come to our home to show me ways to help Joshua, and she would work with him. I could have cried. Relief flooded me that I didn’t have to face things alone. That I would have guidance and help overwhelmed me and I will always have a soft spot for Easter Seals. And angels.

At age 3, Joshua began to attend classes at Easter Seals. He was bright, and eager. A social child who enjoyed people (after we got him through his early fears of being away from home.)

At age seven, a psychologist tested Joshua’s IQ and finally gave us documented proof that he had normal intelligence. You may wonder why this is important, but back then, to get into the public-school system, you needed proof.

So, at age 8, Joshua entered the Joliet school system. He entered at a second-grade level, and in my ignorance, I thought he would progress through the classes year by year. This would have given him five years in grade school. Five years to learn. In two years, because of his age, they pushed him into Jr. High.

This trip to Joliet to go to school meant Joshua was bussed ninety-plus miles a day. His days started early so he could get on the bus before 7am and he got home at supper time. He was exhausted. Every spring I attended a planning session designed to set up Joshua’s next year in school.

At these meetings, you had the principal of the home district, his teacher, the school psychologist, any therapists that needed to be there, and me. Every year, I requested Joshua be sent to our home district, bringing his ninety-plus miles down to 12.

And here we get to the word, humor. When they were pushing Joshua from grade school into Jr. High after two years, I fought hard to hold him back. I wanted him to learn all the things each class teaches. All those subjects each class introduces to a student he would miss by being rushed through. I wanted Joshua educated. They seemed to think it was baby-sitting duty.

I felt like my arguments were making headway when someone, I don’t remember who, said: laughter is a primitive reflex.

Joshua has a well-developed and appropriate humor response. Nothing gets past him. To me, this fast grasp of situations indicated his intelligence. But the word primitive, changed the tone of the meeting. The teacher asked for an explanation and the understanding I got is humor comes from a place on the brain stem. It doesn’t come from the higher lobe. It’s a basic, fundamental part of being human. It’s not taught. Its inborn.

Laugh loud. Laugh long. It is a shared ability, spanning language, bridging ideologies. It’s one of our most primitive responses. One of our earliest responses to life. Babies laugh with their entire body and anybody who hears their laughter can’t help but join in.

I choose laughter over anger. Humor above depression. It is a life skill that can save your sanity. And shared, it can raise others up in spirit.

Significant ability? You bet.






About JoshE

Joshua Englehaupt was born on April 3, 1980. Birth trauma left him with Cerebral Palsy. He is non-verbal and non-ambulatory but he is filled with a wonderful spirit. He has a passion for art. Join him in his journey of discovery.
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