I am thrilled to present Elizabeth Sautter, co author of Whole Body Listening Larry at School and Whole Body Listening Larry at Home. Elizabeth is a speech language pathologist who is also the co-director/co-owner of Communication Works (cwtherapy.com), a private practice in Oakland, California, offering speech, language, social, and occupational therapy. Elizabeth is also the author of a fantastic book, Make Social Learning Stick! Stay tuned for my review soon! To learn more about Make Social Learning Stick! check out her guest blog post on ASHA here.
When I received the Whole Body Listening Larry Books in the mail, I immediately loved them because of the bright and engaging illustrations and the realistic contexts that the “unexpected behavior” occurred in. Listening Larry serves as an excellent example of how to use Whole Body Listening both in school and at home.
I have asked Elizabeth some questions that I think will be helpful to many parents whose children have social and cognitive delays/disorders or children who simply have trouble listening and following directions. Her books are ideal for children who have difficulty picking up social cues and demonstrating appropriate social behavior within a variety of situations.
1. What inspired you to write Whole Body Listening Larry at Home and Whole Body Listening Larry at School?
While working at Communication Works, in Oakland, CA, Kristin Wilson and I developed many lessons and activities to help children increase their social communication and self-regulation skills.
Many of the students struggled to pay attention or listen to others one-on-one and in group settings. Using Susanne P. Truesdale’s (1990) concept of whole body listening with expansion of the idea by Nita Everly, Kris and I helped students learn how to break down the abstract concept of listening and improve their ability to pay attention. Michelle G. Winner’s Social Thinking® concepts were infused to teach and emphasize why this skill is important and how their behavior made other people feel when they did or did not keep their body and brain focused.
With so many of the kids being visual learners, we wanted to develop a character to represent and remind them to use whole body listening. This is when “Larry” was born.
“Larry,” who was named by the students, began his life as a cartoon drawing on a wooden tongue depressor. Slowly, he took on the features of a little boy, complete with a sharp outfit that the kids found quite acceptable.
The students became comfortable with Larry and said that he was easy to relate to. They liked another childlike character in the class who could help them improve their ability to pay attention and learn. Although Larry provided many reminders (in a supportive fashion), they did not feel like he was being a “rule police”, they knew he was trying to help. Larry is presented as a friendly social thinker who wants to help others. There seemed to be something about Larry that made him easy to relate to and less intimidating than adults.
Through Larry we helped the children draw posters and signs to show how to listen with your whole body. They practiced activities and games with Larry as their coach and had fun learning the importance of these skills.
Larry also helped them increase their perspective taking skills by thinking about why these skills are important and that their behavior can affect the thoughts and feelings of others. The children loved this character who helped them learn how to be a more effective listener. It was evident that the students were totally engaged and motivated. This was the light bulb moment for us and we decided to expand this character into a broader visual tool/storybook for other parents and teachers to use with their children. In2011, the two books, Whole Body Listening Larry at Home and Whole Body Listening Larry at School were published by Social Thinking Publishing (San Jose, CA).
2. What is “Whole Body Listening?”
Whole body listening is vocabulary that helps to break down the abstract concept of listening or paying attention into more concrete terms. Listening is more than just using your ears to hear words. It involves looking around at and considering the people and situation and then using all parts of your body to attend.
Whole body listening teaches how to use your eyes to look at the speaker, ears to hear what is being said, remembering to keep your mouth quiet, your hands, feet and body still, using your brain to think about what the speaker is saying and, heart to care about what is being said.
3. Can you provide some helpful tips on how a parent should be reading the Whole Body Listening Larry books to their child?
The books are meant to provide a fun and easy ways to talk with children about what is involved with whole body listening and make the concept of listening more concrete and attainable. Many children do not know what is expected and these books can provide a mental image of what is expected and help children understand how their behavior affects others.
The books are designed to present these more involved social concepts in a very, very simple manner. That’s why they are so appealing to both adults and children! Parents can read these books with their children and prompt them to think about what it means and “looks like” to listen with each body part. It’s presented in a rhyming story format, which kids just love. As the characters encounter different situations, parents can discuss how the characters are feeling when the person is listening or not listening: did they make others feel comfortable or uncomfortable? How can they tell (body language, words, etc)? Parents can expand the discussion as kids become better at understanding the concept of whole body listening: has the child ever noticed that people feel good when s/he is using whole body listening or others feel not so good, frustrated, or irritated when the child is struggling to use whole body listening? We all like to be “heard” – it makes us feel valued and that people “see” us. This concept of listening and paying attention seeps into everything we do and keeps expanding as children get older. Think about yourself as an adult right now: don’t you get frustrated when you’re trying to talk to someone and they’re not paying attention to you or what you’re saying? It’s an important one to reinforce when children are young so they build foundation skills that will carry them through as they grow.
4. Can you provide me with some resources/printable to use when reading the Whole Body Listening Larry Books?
The coloring page in the book is a fun way to have children review and reinforce what they have learned. The body parts can be cut out and discussed in a fun, artsy way. There is also a small handout that can be posted on the refrigerator or elsewhere to refer and act as a visual reminder for children. There is a larger poster for a bedroom or classroom that can be purchased on our publishers’ website, www.socialthinking.com
5. Do you have any plans for writing any future books?
We do plan to write additional books and one idea we’re tossing around is an activity book related to Larry, but it’s still in the conceptual development phase at this point.
Elizabeth Sautter, M.A. CCC-SLP is a speech and language pathologist/social cognitive specialist and co-director/co-owner of Communication Works (cwtherapy.com), a private practice in Oakland, California, offering speech, language, social, and occupational therapy. Along with co-authoring the Whole Body Listening Larry series with Kristen Wilson, she has most recently authored a book for parents/caregivers and professionals: Make Social Learning Stick! How to Guide and Nurture Social Competence Through Everyday Routines and Activities (aapcpublishing.net). In addition, her relationships with her sister and extended family members with special needs have made her work a lifelong endeavor. Elizabeth loves to gather and share information and can be reached at: