Whole Body Listening Larry Updates

Beginning in late 2021, Think Social Publishing, also known as Social Thinking, began to discontinue the sale of the Whole Body Listening Larry series (books and poster), and we will no longer be publishing this material.

Thanks to information and advocacy from the neurodivergent community, the authors, Elizabeth Sautter and Kristen Wilson are making important and necessary updates to the Whole Body Listening Larry resources.

The Need for Whole Body Listening Larry to Evolve

By Elizabeth Sautter and Kristen Wilson

Thanks to information and advocacy from the neurodivergent community, we are making important and necessary updates to the Whole Body Listening Larry resources we have developed. These revised resources will encourage strategies for regulation, awareness, and advocacy so that children can learn what their unique brain and body needs to help them regulate and listen to learn and connect.

To provide some background, the concept of Whole Body Listening was developed by Susanne Truesdale to help break down one of the most critical, challenging, and abstract components of social communication and learning–listening. We have adapted Truesdale’s core concept to help us all explore WBL as a multifaceted and a multisensory process that involves all the body parts including the ears, brain, eyes, mouth, hands, feet, body position, and heart (to show caring). Truesdale developed the concept of Whole Body Listening following a conversation with her first-grade class about the difference between “hearing” and “listening” back in 1989. Inspired by Truesdale, we created Whole Body Listening Larry to introduce the concept to children in an age-appropriate way.

We sought to create a tool that broke down this abstract and complex process so children would better understand what was being asked of them when told to “Pay attention” and “Listen to me.” In an attempt to make this concept explicit, Whole Body Listening Larry created standards for listening behaviors (i.e., eyes looking at speaker, hands quiet in your lap), rather than reflecting on how each of the body parts support an individual’s listening needs. We have since learned that by providing set standards for how to listen created a model for compliance without bringing awareness and advocacy for individual needs. This approach ultimately marginalized other behaviors (such as avoiding eye contact, flapping hands, and/or fidgeting) as inferior or incorrect strategies, which feeds stereotypes we want to steer away from.

Active listening and processing can look many different ways. Some people listen better when they move around, while others can only listen when they look away. Some people listen best when they fidget with their hands, while others need to have a quiet space. These various forms of listening and learning needs are not deficits, they are differences. When we provide insight and tools to help children to be aware of their specific needs and how to regulate their body for listening, we ultimately empower them to understand and advocate for themselves.

We recognize our responsibility in revising the Larry resources to align with the neurodiversity paradigm and reflect current interpersonal neurobiology research. Larry has done a lot of deep listening and is evolving. He is learning and growing and taking a stand against harmful stereotypes, ableism, discrimination, and social prejudices that devalue individuals because of their different needs or diagnosis. We are in the process of creating more inclusive resources to share with the public as soon as possible.

Some of the many resources Larry is learning from that focus on awareness, regulation, and acceptance, include but are not limited to:

Whole Body Listening Larry
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