Lessons in Listening


This book is in part about how to support individuals with a disability who also have a reputation for being difficult, aggressive, violent, and often labeled as a “behavior problem”. Fourteen life lessons focused on listening— based on 50 years of face-to-face, hands-on experience providing supports to people with a spectrum of disability labels. Yeiter puts forth a relationship-based approach which requires listening, in the broadest and deepest sense of the word with both our heads and our hearts. He has the courage to state the obvious — that change begins with us, within our souls, not with the externals of another person’s behaviors. This first involves a deeper kind of listening — a listening to our spirit, muse, or conscience, and furthermore submitting to it by getting to know and be in a relationship of interdependence.

Forward by John O’Brien


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I wrote this book mostly for direct support staff and parents. First and foremost, I put forth a relationship-based approach that calls into question the behaviors and assumptions of the caregiver. This is not a one-time strategy but an unfolding exploration over time… perhaps a lifetime.

For people with intellectual disabilities, I have always believed that it was my role to be a teacher. Over the years, I realized that through teaching – most fundamentally — we teach who we are. If you think back upon the great teachers you have had in your life (be it parents, coaches, friends, schoolteachers, etc.) you remember qualities that made them great, not so much what they taught. Caring, encouraging, their believing in you when you did not believe in yourself, patience, kindness, passion, rigor, love — these and other qualities are the work of a great teacher.

In the process of listening to someone, there are a great many things to consider and I have done my best to illustrate these through the stories of some magnificent and heroic people I have worked with, people who have taught me to listen.

Forward by John O’Brien