What is it? ~

HANDLE, a Holistic Approach to NeuroDevelopment and Learning Efficiency, is an effective, noninvasive, empowering approach to strengthening neurological systems that are creating life and/or learning difficulties across the life span. Conditions commonly labeled as Learning Disabilities, ADD/ADHD, and ASD/Autism; as well as functional difficulties such as organizational problems, obsessive-compulsive disorders or tics are viewed from a unique perspective which in turn lends itself to a unique approach to a solution.

Behavior is Communication ~

The HANDLE paradigm, developed by Judith Bluestone from more than 35 years of diagnosing and treating neurodevelopmental differences, is systemic in nature. It relies on the concept that the body will communicate its needs, weaknesses and strengths, and that the job of the practitioner is to interpret the clues the body gives into a comprehensive guide to the individual’s neurodevelopmental profile. HANDLE is truly developmental in nature, treating problems at their roots, rather than merely providing short term solutions or compensatory techniques. The therapeutic activities are movement based and outwardly simple, yet deeply profound. They utilize research and techniques from many different disciplines in an individualized approach. Its goal is to help each client achieve functional outcomes, to enhance the efficiency with which the individual lives life.

Everything is done for a positive purpose; but what is it? ~

Each person is unique, and therefore has slightly different neurodevelopmental patterns. Many people – children and adults alike – who experience difficulties in learning, task performance, or social interaction have neurodevelopmental differences which interfere with processing. As processing is impeded, the body seeks to compensate in order to create as complete a response to life’s stimuli as possible. As a result these individuals may exhibit maladaptive behaviors. These behaviors, although seemingly dysfunctional, actually serve a purpose for the individual. As neurological systems are developed they can support more efficient functioning and processing.

The HANDLE paradigm asks what is working or not working. What are the clues that provide information about the patterns of compensation, protection, and diversion that create behavioral outcomes such as disorganization, distractibility, behavioral and learning difficulties? Answers are discovered through observational assessment, thorough questionnaires, and interviews. These clues help to create a picture of the individual’s neurodevelopmental functioning.

Nothing Stands Alone ~

HANDLE views the individual holistically – that is that neurological systems are interrelated and inter-responsive to one another. Since these systems are interdependent, the HANDLE practitioner will design an individualized program that works on specific systems as well as the interactions between systems. This home based program (20 – 30 minutes a day) encourages and develops neurological organization.

Less can actually be More ~

These activities work on the foundational concept of Gentle Enhancement® which holds that stressed systems do not learn, they shut down. Therefore activities are done gently and stopped prior to the point of stress in the body. Clients learn to identify stress signals. HANDLE clients learn that a little goes a long way and that a lot can actually postpone development.

So how does all this work with my child? ~

How does all this translate into functional, behavioral outcomes? Imagine a child observed squirming in her seat, unable to pay attention to the teacher in school. Her handwriting is illegible and no matter how hard she tries the teacher cannot get this child to understand the math lesson. Her reading is below grade level and she tends to be the “class clown.” She is bright, everyone knows that, but somehow she just can’t focus long enough to “work up to her potential.” Out on the playground this child is wild, often unable to stop when it is time to begin class again. At home she is continually checking in with his parents, “bothering” them with a stream of questions, annoying the baby, and cranky for no apparent reason. Sleep is difficult and meltdowns are not uncommon.

Rather than ask “why” this child can’t seem to behave or come up with behavior modification techniques to help her control the behaviors; the HANDLE practitioner sees these behaviors as communications from various neurological systems that are not functioning smoothly. This child’s tactile system may be highly sensitive so that the feel of the chair beneath her and the pencil in her hand may be painful. She squirms to find comfort so that she can focus. Her visual system may be weakened so that her eyes are not working well together. She truly cannot follow what she is reading. She may not know, in her body, where she is in space in relation to herself and others so that her movements seem disruptive, but in fact she is unaware of them, she’s just trying to figure out where she is. Additionally her vestibular system as well as her differentiation may be immature and not supporting her intelligence in being functionally expressed.

Through simple activities such as drinking through a crazy straw, rhythmic tapping on particular areas of the body, or playing specific games with a hula hoop, these systems are organized. As the systems strengthen, they support more balanced functioning.

Attending to Attentional Priorities ~

It is easy to see this child’s behavior as disruptive, manipulative, and inattentive and to interpret that she doesn’t care about her schoolwork or helping out at home. Perhaps this child is actually being very attentive, she is just attending to things that her body is telling her. This focus is so encompassing that it does not allow her to also focus on the tasks at hand. This causes frustration for her as well as those around her. Her Attentional Priorities will dictate where she puts her energy. Self-protection and self-esteem are usually higher priorities than math lessons.

Thus HANDLE acknowledges Attentional Priorities (where a client needs to focus his or her energy) that create diversion from the tasks at hand. Everything is done for a positive purpose. HANDLE explores the purposes behind inefficient functioning. By enhancing the interwoven neurodevelopmental systems, independently and holistically, HANDLE nurtures the individual’s own body to learn and grow efficiently.