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Meet Bumper: A Whole Body Learner


Whole Body Listening…we’re sure you’ve come into contact with this horrific yet highly pervasive concept: 

Eyes for looking at the person talking to you, ears ready to hear, mouth quiet (no talking, humming, or making sounds), hands quiet in the lap or by the sides, feet quiet on the floor, body faces the speaker, brain thinking about what is being said and heart caring what the other person is saying. UGH. MAKE IT STOP! * 

In fact, the concept of Whole Body Listening is so pervasive (and invasive) that we often see it in classrooms and schools even when the school and/or classroom culture does not mirror these expectations in any way! We have watched as teachers and staff reference and run through posters and visuals of this concept with their class, and then proceed to use learning methods and activities that look nothing like Whole Body Listening (e.g., students can stand, sit, jump, spin, pace, rock, etc.). Of course, most unfortunately, we have definitely seen Whole Body Listening highly enforced as well, and merely the presence of these expectations is problematic for so many students that cannot possibly carry them out and/or cannot possibly listen and learn while forcing themselves and their ampy state of idle into stillness. 

 We will openly state that Jac has liberated classrooms of their Whole Body Listening posters (most of the time with full permission to do so from staff… most of the time).  Jac has preached to staff that if this idea was ACTUALLY about listening with one’s WHOLE body, neurodivergent people would be the poster children for it, because we actually do use our entire bodies to listen and learn. To be fair, there are absolutely students and adults who listen and learn best using all or some of the ideas listed above, but there are many others who have different ways of listening and learning and that needs to be okay, too. Not to mention, we definitely think that most teachers would agree that a class full of students on the edge of their seats, coming over their desks with their knees on their chairs, creeping and bouncing forward, trying to get a better look, vocalizing excitedly and trying to touch and feel and do whatever the lesson or activity is would be a much better indicator of engagement than a room full of quiet, still students.

 Propaganda removed and classrooms liberated is all well and good, but visual cues and ideas about active engagement are, indeed, a good idea, too.  As is making it explicit to students that diverse learning styles are the expectation. So, we knew we needed to come up with something that could replace these super outdated, utterly ableist and maddeningly marginalizing posters, and thus, BUMPER (they/them/it) was born.

 Bumper is a Whole Body Learner, and they use all of their tools, tricks, gears, and processing mechanisms to take in and analyze information. Bumper knows educators want engaged students in their classrooms and is on a mission to help achieve that goal.  Bumper believes modeling is best when it comes to facilitating a classroom culture that supports active engagement.  As such, they love to show students how they use a range of ways to learn and engage with materials.  Check out Autism Level UP!’s Meet Bumper: A Whole Body Learner poster! 

 Bumper knows that not everyone uses their body to learn in the same way they do.  And, they are quite interested in learning what you and/or your students look like when they’re learning! So, we’ve included an accompanying “What do YOU look like when you are learning?” Doodle Sheet!  Encourage your students to sketch, type, write, scribble, color, or any other way they prefer to record information to start to create their own Whole Body Learning Profile! We say “start” because Bumper knows that while students likely already know some things that they do to detect, process, integrate, and accumulate knowledge, Bumper also knows that students are learning how to learn all the time.  Bumper wants students to add to and edit their profiles all year long. 

 You might be questioning how you can help your students reflect on the tools, tricks, gears, and processing mechanisms they use to help them take in and analyze information.  We’ve included one final page in this support, the Whole Body Learner Regulator.  This is an adaptation of one of our core tools, The Regulator 2.0.  Bumper’s version provides a framework for students to investigate how they use their mission control (aka head), tactile manipulators (aka hands and arms), mobility units (aka legs, feet, wheels), and inner mechanics (aka fuel and feelZzz) to learn.  This format can also be used to help your students explore and discover new ways that support their active engagement and understanding. 

 Bumper has one other important thought.  They think it would be amazing if students had a way to share their profiles with one another, so that students can start to appreciate that different tools, tricks, gears, and processing mechanisms work for different people!  Bumper sees this as a basis for authentic peer education creating an equitable learning environment where unique learning profiles are validated and supported and simply expected to the norm.  Imagine a room where you as a teacher can use Bumper’s language to help students understand and appreciate how they and others learn. 

 It’s truly time to take the next step and Level UP! to Whole Body Learning with Bumper!

*Even the original authors now acknowledge Whole Body Listening is problematic and requires revision. https://www.socialthinking.com/whole-body-listening