Being in this field, working with kids who have autism or other disabilities, I often get excessive praise and thanks from outsiders for doing what I do. While I don’t believe or feel that my job deserves any more praise than anyone else’s, I try to take the compliment and respond with the truth. The truth being, this job is very rewarding to me; and as difficult as it can be, the good outweighs the bad almost everyday. I am truly blessed to be able to share a little part of my kids’ lives with them, in whatever capacity that may be. One thing that I have found helps me not only get through those tough days, but also helps me connect with my kids is humor. I have always been an outgoing person and also a person who wants to make jokes and make others laugh. I have found this to be particularly important when I have those really tough days, where it seems that if I don’t laugh I would cry.
The other place where I love to joke and use humor is in my sessions. My favorite time to use humor is in the beginning. Getting to know a new child can be difficult for both the therapist and the child. Building trust in the relationship is crucial, if the child does not trust you and you do not have that rapport it is unlikely that you will be able to work towards or accomplish any of the child’s goals. Being silly with my kids and making jokes or playing funny games is often how I bond with my kids, especially right off the bat. This is obviously something that needs to be balanced with being serious and having the child respect your authority and listen to your instruction. If you can pair both of those things together, I find that to be the best way to really build a great relationship with a child.
Speaking to that piece, about authority particularly, it is important to remember to not be too silly. If the child views you as the silly therapist that goofs off all the time, it will be very hard to accomplish or work towards any of their goals. A nice balance of funny and humorous mixed with authority that the child will respond to I think is the best way to handle therapeutic relationships with the kids. I even find myself sometimes making “doing work” or “following directions” a fun thing and put a funny spin on it so it doesn’t seem so tedious.
Ultimately, our kids want to have fun and I want to help them have fun. But of course, we all have goals for our kids that we want them to accomplish, as well. Accomplishing those goals doesn’t have to be boring, we can work hard as therapists to make it fun and silly so that our kids can enjoy their time here. I think it’s also important that we as therapists enjoy our time here. Find a time to laugh, be silly, make jokes, and smile with co-workers. Sometimes, this is needed and helps to decompress and get through the day. Start putting humor in every part of your day, especially your sessions and see how it changes your relationships with kids and your overall mood while at work!