Beyond the B.A.S.I.C.S. Blog

Teaching Sarcasm

October 16, 2012

There are 3 Elements of Sarcasm: Facial expression, context, & vocal cues.

–      Facial Expression: disgust, irritation, or apathy are most common

–      Context: sarcastic statements often contradict the general topic of the rest of the conversation (ie: talking about how dirty a restaurant is/how bad the service is and ending by saying “but at least the food was good”).

–      Vocal Cues

–      “Thanks.”  In English, people often use a nasal tone to indicate sarcasm when saying the word “thanks”.  It is thought that the nasal tone shows a connection between sarcasm and extreme disgust (ie: wanting to expel whatever it is out of your body as forcefully as possible).

–      Elongating Words:   “Well excuuuuuuuuse me!”

–      Saying exciting words with flat affect:  “Wow.”  “Great.”  “Yay.”

–      Using a sing-song melody:  “so-rrrryyy”

–      Inverse Pitch Obtrusion: The speaker often pitches a stressed syllable lower than the other words in the sentence to indicate sarcasm.

–      High pitch:  “GREAT weather, isn’t it?”  (sincere)

–      Low pitch:  “Great weather, isn’t it?”  (sarcasm)

Although sarcasm is not intended to be deceptive, people who have trouble identifying sarcasm tend to interpret sarcastic statements as lies, especially when the only cues are contextual (and because often a sarcastic statement is the exact opposite of what the speaker intends to communicate).

Sarcasm can be especially difficult to teach to people with ASD because verbal communication (language + intention + context) is multifaceted already.

Studies have shown that people with ASD can be taught to understand sarcasm when instructors teach on several levels, including watching videos, using multiple exemplars, training in vivo, and teaching the ‘rules’ of sarcasm.

Moreno, Susan J, MAABS. “Tips for Teaching High-Functioning People with Autism.”


“Sarcasm.”  http://www.people.howstuffworks/com/sarcasm1.htm/

Melissa Ruiz, BCaBA


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