What’s The Problem With Whole Body Listening?

****The Listening Larry images parodied here are the intellectual property of Social Thinking, but shown here as part of a critique in the public interest (intended in good faith as a fair use) and done without compensation on our part. – PACLA team****

Many of you have seen the poster for “Whole Body Listening”.  It’s in pretty much every special education classroom.   In the poster, Larry basically shames Autistic children because they do not listen or communicate the way that typical children do.   I am not a fan of Ableist Larry and I am horrified that this is the message we are giving to Autistic children.

For reference, this is Ableist Larry:

Poster for

Poster for “Whole Body Listening” A cartoon drawing of a child, “Larry” points at a chart with images of various body parts and tips for “whole body listening”
Eyes: Look at the person talking to you
Ears: Both ears ready to hear
Mouth: Quiet, no talking, humming or making sounds
Hands: Quiet, in lap, pockets or by your side
Feet: Quiet on the floor
Body: Faces the speaker
Brain: Thinking about what is being said
Heart: Caring about what the other person is saying

This was posted on the wall of a friend, and another friend remarked that someone needed to make posters to teach Larry about his own ableism.

So, here is the poster that NEEDS to be in the classrooms of Autistic children.  This is what teachers and professionals and parents NEED to understand about Autistic neurology:

What's the Problem With Whole Body Listening?   Ableist Larry used to shame Autistic people about whole body listening but now he knows better.  Image of a cartoon boy presenting a list of body parts with this text: Eye contact can be physically painful for some. You don't have to look to be good at listening! Your ears can do their job all by themselves!  Sometimes verbal stims help us to process and that's okay if making sounds helps you listen & learn! Flappy hands are happy hands! Your hands can be loud & proud and you can still listen! You can move your feet & walk around, that won't stop your ears from listening or learning!   It can even help  you to do those things! Your body is yours and you can move it however you need to.  Your boundaries are just as important as anybody else's!  Your brain is always thinking, even when others do not understand!  Your brain is awesome exactly as it is! Your heart is caring about others, and you deserve the same in return!  Ableist Larry is working on his ableist assumptions about Autistic people!  Share this poster with others to help them learn too!

What’s the Problem With Whole Body Listening?
Ableist Larry used to shame Autistic people about whole body listening but now he knows better.
Image of a cartoon boy presenting a list of body parts with this text:
Eye contact can be physically painful for some.
You don’t have to look
to be good at listening!
Your ears can do their job
all by themselves!
Sometimes verbal stims help
us to process and that’s okay
if making sounds helps you
listen & learn!
Flappy hands are happy hands!
Your hands can be loud & proud
and you can still listen!
You can move your feet &
walk around, that won’t stop
your ears from listening or learning! It can even help
you to do those things!
Your body is yours and you can move it however you need to. Your boundaries
are just as important as anybody else’s!
Your brain is always thinking, even when others do not understand! Your brain is awesome exactly as it is!
Your heart is caring about others, and you deserve the same in return!
Ableist Larry is working on his ableist assumptions about Autistic people! Share this poster with others to help them learn too!

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About Lei

PACLA is an Autistic friendly space dedicated to guiding parents toward respectful supports and accommodations for their Autistic children through the concepts of gentle parenting and a belief in the value of neurodiversity.

Posted on March 25, 2015, in Parenting Autistic Children with Love and Acceptance. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Hi, I really like your poster describing the problems with “whole body listening.” My son was diagnosed at age 12, and is now 19.
    After his diagnosis, I educated myself. Sadly, I have found it necessary to educate teachers, principals, counsellors, judges, police officers and even therapists that have been part of our journey.
    When he turned 18, it became necessary find one to replace the pediatric psychiatrist that he had been seeing since 4th grade. At the first appointment with his current psychiatrist, she focused almost solely on the fact that he didn’t make eye contact!!! It was absurd. I asked her if she had any understanding about Aspergers, she assured me that she did…as she forced my son to look her in the eye. As if that would solve his difficulties with intense social anxiety and depression/suicidal ideation.

    Anyway, I’m writing to ask if you may know where I might find some reference material regarding the statement that “Eye Contact can be physically painful for some.” I would very much like to pass the information on to his psychiatrist.

    Like

    • I think that if your psychiatrist is not listening to your son’s lived experience as an Autistic, person, he might need a new psychiatrist. I’m an Autistic adult and it is physically painful for me, and many Autistics that I know. The problem with research is that it is rarely done with respect for Autistic people, so there is not much out there on why eye contact is harmful….unless you talk to Autistics. Forcing people to do things they are not comfortable with is abusive, in my opinion.

      Like

  2. The title of this really bugged me. I was thinking about people I know who need to doodle or knit in order to pay attention. I was picturing my son, rocking or bouncing, but fully aware of what is going on around. In other words, I was imagining whole body listening in a much different way than listed on that first poster.
    Thank you for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The heart part is the most disturbing to me. It is emotional policing. How many Autistics get told we “don’t care” to the point of being gaslighted about our own emotions. Sometimes the person we need to care about the most, especially when abusive things are being communicated, is ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

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