Many people who are looking for a non-medical approach or therapy expect to receive “techniques and strategies” that will result in a particular outcome. HANDLE® is so much more than that. At its core HANDLE is more than clinical procedures and tasks to be done to achieve success/change; it is a paradigm shift from viewing symptoms to seeing behaviours, from fixing apparently maladaptive behaviours to understanding the communicated purpose behind behaviours, and from the world of broken people who need to be fixed to one that accepts and appreciates all individuals as they are and supports their blossoming into all they can be.
HANDLE, the Holistic Approach to Neurodevelopment and Learning Efficiency, is a paradigm that encourages individuals to be who they are and to experience their own sensations, movement, and processing without judgement. This allows the freedom and choice to shift one’s attentional priorities from attending inward due to sensory, motor, or processing inefficiencies, to learning, growing, and thriving. From this foundation of unconditional acceptance, individuals have the motivation and courage to step out of their current comfort zones and thus experience and forge new ways of being in the world and connecting with others.
When individuals embrace the HANDLE paradigm in their lives, which includes the implementation of a program of activities, nutritional recommendations, and environmental recommendations, obstacles that get in the way of living the way they want to live are lessened and they have more choices for how to do the things they want to do.
HANDLE is holistic. It is a systems approach that addresses the wide variety of possible influences in one’s life, because irregularities in one system in our body and life naturally resonate and create irregularities in other systems. The root cause of what is making life challenging is often not what is obvious on the surface, so HANDLE looks at how all of the systems in our body and life are interconnected, as well as how the systems support each other. This includes but is not limited to the central nervous system, the autonomic nervous system, the digestive system, the immune system, the family system, the school system, nutrition, and environmental influences.
HANDLE is an approach. Each individual is addressed with non-judgement and unconditional regard, regardless of age or presumed abilities. With the understanding that self-protection is the first priority for all of us, HANDLE calls self-protection a primary attentional priority; in other words, it takes priority above paying attention to others, doing what others want, behaving in “acceptable” ways, learning new tasks, and pretty much anything that requires attending outward. Protecting ourselves results in primary attentional priorities that may look perplexing to others; yet these self-protective behaviours are also communicating basic sensory and motor needs. Therefore, it is useful and important to investigate behaviours to determine what is driving the individual to engage in them, rather than viewing the behaviours as negative symptoms to be masked or controlled.
HANDLE is based on neurodevelopment. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change as a result of experience. With the understanding that neuroplasticity is a lifelong process, HANDLE combines nutritional recommendations with gentle, repeated, organised movement patterns to gently enhance capabilities towards functionality. In doing this, a client’s developmental history as well as his or her future aspirations is embraced so that the individual’s psyche is respected. Gentle, organised movement that is supported by proper nutrition organises neural processing, influences the body’s biochemistry, and changes the actual structure of the brain.
HANDLE addresses all forms of learning, academic, social, motor, language, behavioural, and more, by putting in place all of the neurodevelopmental building blocks that form the foundation for all forms of learning and hence the readiness for learning. Intrinsic to the HANDLE paradigm is that people of all ages possess the potential and desire to learn and the possibilities are endless.
HANDLE develops efficiency. Knowing that efficient systems expend the least amount of energy with minimum stress to achieve the desired result encourages conservation of our natural resources to improve well-being. HANDLE believes that it is not just about getting the task done; it is about getting it done efficiently with energy to spare. In this way, HANDLE supports tasks which typically require attention and effort, to become tools that can be used for learning and growing.
If a person’s body cannot function on auto-pilot, with a relaxed autonomic nervous system, but instead requires mental effort to keep it in balance, there will be insufficient ‘brain power’ – focus, concentration, attention – available for intellectual growth and intellectual tasks. ~ Vernon H. Mark, MD F.A.C.S.: Brain Power
About Gentle Enhancement®
Gentle Enhancement is one of the foundations of the HANDLE® paradigm. It means: gently enhance capabilities, toward functionality. The intent of each HANDLE activity is to offer only as much input as each individual can use at any given time. This operating principle is based on the understanding that disorganized, immature, or damaged brain/body systems become less functional or may shut down when stressed. Stressed systems don’t get stronger.
Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system. The body’s natural resources become dedicated to the fight or flight response leaving few resources available for other processes, such as maintenance and repair internally, and learning and behavior externally.
The fight or flight response prepares us to deal with any threat to safety. For an individual with sensitive systems too much input may be perceived as a threat. That perception may not match what an observer experiences so below is a list of observable indicators of stress related state changes.
- Change in muscle tone
- Pain or discomfort
- Loss of visual focus
- Reddening of the ears
- Change of facial color
- Changed breathing pattern
- Nausea, dizziness, disorientation or other somatic concerns
People who are taught HANDLE activities are instructed to stop that particular activity for that day at the first sign of stress. A state change signals that the person has gotten as much input as can be used and more would produce stress. Stressed systems don’t grow and learn.
Most people are aware that a sustained stress response may cause health problems such as: digestion/absorption problems, immune system problems, sleep disorders, even cardiac conditions. The HANDLE paradigm has long asserted that stress interferes with cognitive function, influences mental health, and alters the structure of the brain. This assertion is now validated in neuroscientific research. For more information about the effects of stress on the brain from The Franklin Institute click here.
The HANDLE paradigm encourages people to embrace Gentle Enhancement as a way of life. Whenever a task or situation produces indications of increased stress, the individual is encouraged to do one or more of the following:
- Take a break from the task or situation that caused the stress
- Change the structure of the task, or the environment in which it occurs
- Diminish irritants
- Adopt stress-relieving techniques
© 2014 HANDLE Holdings
Used with permission by HANDLE Holdings LLC.