What is HANDLE®?

The labels of AD/HD, Asperger’s, PDD, autism, Tourette's Syndrome—and countless other dysfunctions and disorders—have become increasingly applied to both children and adults. While individuals diagnosed with these dysfunctions are often treated with medication and other traditional therapies, HANDLE looks beyond the labels to address root causes of disordered behaviors through effective, gentle, non-drug activities and lifestyle modifications that promote efficient neurological functioning and learning.

HANDLE is an acronym for:


Approach to


Development and



HANDLE addresses the underlying causes of a wide range of neurodevelopmental, learning, and movement difficulties. HANDLE offers tools for clients and caregivers to interact in a gentle, respectful, non-invasive, and nonjudgmental manner.

HANDLE Incorporates a "Systems View."

HANDLE incorporates a “systems” view of the body and mind, in which human behaviors can be seen as expressions of the functioning of various aspects of a person’s body, mind, and environment, with special focus on the nervous system and brain. HANDLE considers functioning of the central nervous system, autonomic nervous system, immune system, digestive system, visual system, family system, and more.

These systems interact with each other dynamically: when one is stressed or disabled, another system may evidence the stress—as a headache, for instance, can evidence eyestrain. The particular pattern of irregularities in a person's systems can manifest itself in a range of dysfunctional behaviors. Through assessment, we discern systems that need strengthening or protection. Then, we help pupils and their families strengthen these weak systems to reduce symptomatic behaviors.

HANDLE Is Holistic.

HANDLE utilizes a holistic perspective, assessing numerous interdependent body-mind influences within each individual as they respond to a vast array of elements within their environment. This approach acknowledges the possible causal roles of chemicals, allergens, nutritional deficits, and toxins of any kind. HANDLE also considers environmental influences such as sound and light, as well as lifestyle factors, such as TV viewing and video game playing.

Because the brain and nervous system continually change in response to stimulation, even if a person's Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, or damage from stroke isn't reversible, substantial improvements in quality of life are often possible. Independent research conducted by the University of Washington, for instance, found notable improvement in individuals suffering Traumatic Brain Injury, even when HANDLE was initiated many years after the injury occurred.

HANDLE Is an Approach.

HANDLE is a set of guiding principles rather than a rigid list of activities or techniques. It is a paradigm that is unified by applied neuroscience and deduced from developmental behavior, including evidence that movement changes brain structure. Incorporating practices from many related disciplines, HANDLE practitioners carefully assess individuals and develop personalized programs that gently help people achieve efficient, sustainable function. We also present findings and activities to the pupil, regardless of age or presumed abilities.

HANDLE Is Neuro-Developmental.

HANDLE recognizes that people are always changing, with the nervous system (including the brain) always changing within us. This cardinal principle of contemporary neuroscience is called “neuroplasticity.” Because of neuroplasticity, we can keep on learning. The structure of the brain isn't set in stone by the time a person is age six… or nine… or twenty-nine… or even seventy-nine.

Though parts of our brains are generally "hardwired" by certain ages, the brain organizes itself in response to patterns of thought and sensation. Movement, supported by proper nutrition, organizes mental processing, influences the body’s chemistry (including chemicals in the brain), and helps mold the actual structure of the brain. We can always hope for change.

HANDLE Is About Learning.

We are not brains, being transported around in bodies. Everything we learn, even the most theoretical of insights, we learn as embodied creatures. Everything we do shapes our learning—and the very structures of the brain.

Specifically, neurons in the brain grow in response to stimuli that:

  • Are done often (frequency),
  • Are sufficient to require attention but not overwhelming (intensity),
  • Are done consistently (regularity),
  • Last only so long as holds attention (duration),
  • Are purposeful (intentional, goal-directed), and/or
  • Are novel (surprising).

HANDLE programs incorporate all of the above. Moreover, by helping people improve the foundations of their learning, HANDLE programs effect improvements in many areas of learning and living, including what are often seen as very intellectual or academic endeavors.

HANDLE Improves Efficiency.

What does efficient learning and living look like? An action is efficient in the moment to the degree it can be done:

  1. With ease: Having differentiated parts of your body, one from the other, you can do more… with less effort.
  2. On demand: You can act to meet a need you perceive, whether your own or someone else's. You can summon whatever “inner resources” are necessary.
  3. With speed: You can act “quickly, but without hurrying”: you can go fast enough—without trying, in haste, to go faster.
  4. With accuracy: You can bring about results that resemble, more or less, what you intended. Through successive approximations, you can make progress toward your goals.
  5. With gentleness: You can act using no more force than what is necessary to achieve your aims.

HANDLE can help your or a loved one's actions, especially learning, be more efficient.

HANDLE Facilitates Sustainability.

An action is efficient over time only if it’s sustainable. Keeping actions sustainable entails:

  1. Being open to input, so you can learn.
  2. Self-correcting in response both to prior errors, and also to constraints in the situation-at-hand, so no one else has to make you do what you know you ought to.
  3. Being free from any need of restraint, so no one has to stop you from doing what you ought not to.
  4. Shifting to neutral1 when you're not pursuing a goal, so you're free to sense, move, think, and feel without needing to make prior adjustments.
  5. Avoiding the simultaneous pursuit of mutually exclusive goals, so you’re not a house divided against itself. In this way, you can stand.

Can you move, when you want to, with ease, speed, accuracy, and gentleness? Is your child open to new experiences, eager to learn, and capable of directing his or her own explorations? Are you both at peace? Would you welcome more calm?

If you want to learn and live efficiently and sustainably, HANDLE can help you get there. Even so, HANDLE isn't a cure-all or magic pill. HANDLE is an approach to learning and living holistically, and making HANDLE your own is always a process.

[1] Neurologically, "neutral" entails a high sensorimotor rhythm; musculoskeletally, "neutral" entails adaptable postures.

HANDLE Is Educational. (1)

When a student who doesn't yet know how to add is taught how to add, this isn't "math therapy." Why not? Quite simply, "under-developed mathematics potential" isn't a disease.

Similarly, when a pupil who doesn't yet know a martial art begins to study aikido, this isn't "aikido therapy." Why not? "Under-developed aikido potential" isn't a health problem, either. Math instruction and aikido are, fundamentally, educational.

In much the same way, when a person who doesn't yet know how to make him- or herself safe, so (s)he can pay attention when asked, begins to learn ways of organizing perception and movement, so (s)he can feel safe, this also isn't therapy. It's not "safety therapy," nor even "attention training," per se—though attention in the classroom or on the job often improves.

So, why is this not therapy? It's not therapy for the same reason that math instruction and aikido aren't therapy. "Under-developed self-organization" isn't a disease. If it were, everyone would have had it at some point in life!

HANDLE Is Educational. (2)

Everyone has—at some point—struggled to direct attention… until learning how.

Everyone has—at some point—struggled to differentiate body parts, one from another… until learning how.

Everyone has—at some point—struggled to distinguish the left and right sides of his or her body… until learning how.

Everyone has also—at some point—struggled to see the big picture, notice details, and integrate the two… until learning how.

Not everyone, however, has already learned how to do these efficiently! Moreover, while some people develop these abilities—attention, differentiation, laterality, and inter-hemispheric integration—naturally, other people benefit from education, to help them find their footing. This is the education that HANDLE provides.

Just as math and aikido have uses outside the classroom and dojo, HANDLE has uses outside the clinic and home. How might you use the abilities you can develop through HANDLE? How might your child use the abilities that he or she can develop? Only by embarking on your own, unique HANDLE journey will you come to know. If you're ready to begin, why not give us a call today?


To learn more about HANDLE and hear how HANDLE worked for one family, watch this video from
Halifax’s “Breakfast Television” with HANDLE Practitioner Catherine Stingley and a physician
whose son has autism.