If your home life is anything like mine, you have those frustrating moments when it appears that your kids just aren’t listening to what you’re saying. Though I’m often tempted to repeat myself or raise my voice, I’ve instead tried to teach my kids the technique of Whole Body Listening (WBL). This approach, developed by Susanne P. Truesdale, teaches kids to become better listeners by using a variety of body parts, from the head to the toes.
I’ve been impressed by how well this technique works with a broad range of kids, from preschoolers to older children. At Communication Works, Kristen Wilson, MS CCC-SLP, developed a character called Whole Body Listening Larry and we wrote two children’s books together about his efforts to become a better listener: Whole Body Listening Larry At School and Whole Body Listening Larry At Home (2011). Both have just been revised and updated. The books are light-hearted rhyming stories that children love, and they can learn along with Larry that listening with the whole body involves much more than just the ears.
We recently revised the books to focus on the importance of flexibility in teaching WBL. Each person is different and should be assessed for individual needs and support, a point we spotlight in these new editions. If a skill isn’t achievable for a certain child, adaptations can and should be made. If you are interested in learning more, I wrote and article that is on the Social Thinking website (click here). We also modified the illustrations to demonstrate a relaxed posture while engaged in WBL, which makes the skill easier for most children. The updated editions of both books are available HERE.
Personally, WBL has provided a useful way for me to talk with my children about what we mean when we ask them to listen. Although I know many other parents who feel the same, we need to be aware that this is a “tool” rather than a hard and fast “rule” that might make kids feel inadequate if they still struggle with these skills. If your child is able to understand this concept and it helps them to break down the abstract into more tangible, concrete terms, by all means, use it. But just know that we have to be mindful and provide modifications or accommodations when needed.