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Whole-Body Listening for Children with Autism


Children do well when they can understand.

What is whole-body listening? Well, it is said that when a child is making eye contact, the body is calm, hands are ready, and mouth is quiet, which indicates that they are listening. However, whole-body listening not only requires that. It also requires the child to have perspective taking, thinking, and feeling (Sautter, 2021). This allows children to be aware of their surroundings, bodies and minds. Listening does come with its own challenges as every child listens differently. As parents, carers and providers we can do our part by adapting to how they listen and not restrict them to how we would want them to listen to us. Whole-body listening is not easy and can be quite complex as some children do not understand what it means to listen and focus, that is why it has to be broken down into parts (Autism Awareness Centre Inc, n.d.). What is easy for others might not necessarily mean it is easy for your child. The way we demonstrate that we are listening is determined by cognitive and sensory control (Sautter, 2021). Here are some tips listed below to help engage your child with whole-body listening using their eyes, mouth, and body (Gordon, 2020).


Eyes

Looking at the speaker but it does not have to be looking directly as this may cause some children to get stressed out or even have anxiety. This may not be easy for some children and it is sufficient as long as they are looking at the direction of the speaker. A strategy that we can teach our children with autism is by observing the facial expressions on people’s faces. Minimise distractions in our surroundings to get the child to focus on you (Gordon, 2020).


Mouth

Another strategy that can be implemented is allowing the child to either chew on items (e.g. sweets) or drinking their favourite drinks, as this allows the child to have some time to think before speaking and it provides them with the necessary sensory input. It is also important to note that some children will make verbal sounds as that is their way of processing what was or is being said (Gordon, 2020).


Body

One strategy is to allow children to move around or have a toy with them which helps to relieve any sensory needs. In return, it would allow them to feel comfortable and engage better in listening. The simple act of walking around in an area is also a way of how children with autism stimulate and process what is being said (Gordon, 2020).


In conclusion, listening and focusing is an essential skill for children with autism especially in their later stages and it can be learnt when broken up into parts. This would help children be alert and aware of things that are happening around them. Once they have mastered this skill, they will be able to move on to active listening when they are older. This is important for them to master and learn as it would help them to grow and have a chance of succeeding in the future (Gordon, 2020).


Written by Jasvinder.


References:

Gordon, C. (2020, August 6). Tips for whole body listening. Autism Services Of Kansas. Retrieved January 6, 2022, from https://www.autismservicesofkansas.com/tips-for-whole-body-listening/


Sautter, E. (2021). Social Thinking Articles. socialthinking.com. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://www.socialthinking.com/Articles?name=help-your-kids-become-whole-body-listeners


Tips to teach whole body listening: It's a tool not a rule. Autism Awareness Centre Inc. (n.d.). Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://autismawarenesscentre.com/whole-body-listening-tool-not-rule/

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