I am looking for anyone that may have experience with HANDLE therapy. I am considering it for my 6 year old daughter for her sensory integration issues (tactile, auditory) and her extreme attachment clinginess and anger/behavioral issues. I saw a couple posts where people inquired about it here but no one had actually done it... hoping to hear more from people who have used it.
I have been working with HANDLE for 15 years, for myself (dyslexia issues), my children (focus/behavior issues), and my friends (learning, behavior, life, relationships, marriage, and other issues), and my clients (a wide variety including: Learning Delays, Autism, Aspergers, Tourettes, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Depression).
HANDLE offers tools for the parent "tool box". As a parenting coach/therapist/consultant I find that 50% of my job is helping people relax, often this includes remembering to "do" the things they already "know"; and 50% is giving guidance in new things to do to enhance development so that growing and life can continue. Generally when I share HANDLE activities with others they find 3-4 activities they really "feel something" or "like". Checking in with parents years later they often say that their teenager (or now older child) still asks for these special ones now and then, especially at the beginning and ending of the school year, or when they have tests or projects due (when they are more stressed!). Favorite activities frequently are: Peacemaker Massage (a very organizing massage done with a soft rubber ball which integrates touch, proprioception and muscle tone), Crazy Straw (a rhythmic sucking activity that helps with filtering and focusing, and more), Rebounding or Joint Tapping (rhythmic stimulation of the joints), also other buzzing, tapping, clapping and massaging activities are popular, depending on the person/personality. In general the activities are organizing through rhythmic coordinated movement or stimulation. Some activities are developmental in origin (like sucking and blowing), some follow the paths of nerves (such as the Trigeminal Nerve in Face Tapping), or are related to reflexology or meridians (as in a number of the massages). Other activities work to integrate the two hemispheres of the brain (right-left balancing) and integrate sensory perceptions through rhythmic coordinated clapping, stomping, ball-bouncing or patterning games.
HANDLE really tries to avoid presenting as a "one-size-fits-all" model or: label = technique, because so much is different from one person to another, and how an activity is adapted to serve a 2 year old is often very different than for a 15 year old or even an 80 year old, yet the principles or elements of the activity are the same and may be very helpful to all. Why? Because the activities are "developmental” and everyone is developing, just in different ways and rates. So HANDLE employs: "Gentle Enhancement" or "stop at the first sign of stress". Part of the learning curve for many is recognizing signs of stress, and knowing what to do to help the person come back to a calm state. Many of the bewildering challenges of parenting have to do with not understanding "what" is causing the distress. If triggers can be identified (sensory, environmental, dietary, other) it becomes easier to work with and resolve them.
HANDLE Practitioners bring different backgrounds to their work. Some started their training as parents with extensive experience helping children with special needs overcome life obstacles and have had exposure to a variety of life and therapeutic experience, others began their HANDLE training with professional degrees in fields ranging from Osteopathic Medicine, Naturopathic Medicine, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Counseling, Nutrition Therapy, Vision Therapy, Speech Therapy, SunRise Approach, RDI (Relationship Development Intervention), Waldorf Education, Montessori Education, Special Education, and others. Each of these HANDLE professionals integrates their wealth of knowledge into their consultations, and often refers to other professionals for advice or supportive therapies. Nothing stands alone, and each modality has its blessings and gifts.
In 15 years of working with HANDLE I have had four families tell me that they had "big changes" within one week (Two kids: (7 year old and a 15 year old) falling asleep and staying asleep within 10 minutes rather than 1-2 hrs and waking frequently; one kid (7 year old) talking on the phone in complete sentences for the first time; one (9 year old) toilet trained). For most "the changes creep up on you" and development keeps going, rather than remaining "stuck". For example a child may still tantrum, but no longer for 1-2 hrs, now 10-15 minutes; a person may still get frustrated by their homework or work/social relations, but now they have "tools" to calm down and regain their focus.
An exciting area of my personal explorations with HANDLE are experimenting how touch and specific kinds of massage (especially to the shoulders, hands and feet) can help heal marital discord when trust becomes an issue. The HANDLE activities are objective, relatively simple to learn, and can be added to most life situations.
I recommend HANDLE when the person is looking for more, is ready to take on something new in their life, wants to add 10-30 minutes of activities every day (the first week is more like 2 hrs per day as the learning curve is high), has a positive/supportive relationship with the person of concern, has a supportive person in their life who is able to "help" if they are unable to do the activities on their own.
I generally don't recommend HANDLE when the person is overwhelmed, does not feel it is "their issue" (for example a teenager who thinks it is mom's issue not theirs), is in medical crisis, is involved in regimented, high-expectation programs.
I have many stories to share if anyone is interested in contacting me directly. Most of the on-line blogs that refer to HANDLE are related to Autism. I have many families that I have worked with who are on the “I think something is wrong, but not sure what” spectrum who are happy to share their experience with others, I’ll be happy to connect you with them if I know more about your specific concerns.
With warm wishes to you on your parenting adventure!
Elizabeth Frishkoff, MSW
HANDLE Practitioner (based in Great Barrington, MA) and mom
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