An important note on why we are discontinuing the use of the words “Whole Body Listening” in our teaching methodology

Listening with Brain and Body


Susanne Truesdale created the concept of Whole Body Listening in 1990 to help break down one of the most complicated and abstract components of social communication and learning.

Unfortunately, over the years, the Whole Body Listening concept has been misunderstood and poorly taught, setting a narrow standard for how to listen and/or being used as a model for compliance with regards to how one listens, not taking into account the various ways that individuals listen.

Think Social Publishing is transitioning to using completely new language–Listening with Brain and Body–along with clearer, inclusive teaching, to re-introduce to facilitators how to teach children about listening with their brains and bodies in the way they listen best. We are updating this language throughout our products as they come up for reprint.

Active listening includes but is not limited to auditory processing. Listening is complex multisensory, social cognitive process that involves all the body and the brain. The various ways that we all listen and learn are not problems or deficits, they are differences. Some people listen better when they rock or move, while others can only listen when they look away from the speaker’s face so they can concentrate on what is being said. Some people listen best when they fidget with their hands or play with their hair. You will see some examples of these listening styles in our storybook. Some people need to have a quiet environment. Additionally, listening within a group also involves perspective taking. Students are learning how to listen with their brain and body best while also considering how those around them listen best as well. This perspective taking loop of considering/thinking about one another when sharing space with others was the original purpose of listening with one’s whole body. We believe that listening with brain and body makes the same point as it clearly describes both the physical/sensory and cognitive aspects of listening.

While we are updating this language in our print products, it’s fine to use either or both phrases in your teaching. What is important is understanding and teaching this concept with a flexible mindset that supports all children learning how they use their brain and body to listen best.

Providing supports to build social awareness of how we listen together in groups, each in our unique way is important. In fact, a key aspect of teaching any concept within the Social Thinking Methodology, begins by fostering an individual’s awareness of the concept by encouraging them to explore its value to them, as a participant in the social world as well as how, why, and when people utilize it. The Listening with Brain and Body concept is just one of many explored through the Social Thinking Methodology.

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