Unwrap your Presence

This Christmas…

The greatest gift we can give ourselves and those around us is to be present and to connect.

In contrast, this time of the year drives us to get busy, do more and go faster, often making it more difficult to connect with those around us. Ironically, the original impetus and meaning for Christmas is all about our connections and our humanity.

This Christmas (now!) I am prioritising first being present for myself and my family and those around me. It does feel like a gift to give myself this time. Goethe’s words on my fridge magnet remind me that “nothing is more important than this day”.

I love unwrapping presents, I know few people who don’t. Unfortunately most of us, me included, get caught up in all the hard work in preparation, for three hours of manic unwrapping on Christmas morning and then it is all finished. What would it be like if we could unwrap our presence throughout the festive season in all we do?

If we go back to the origins of this gift-giving tradition, it wouldn’t be the same story if the three wise men had sent gold, frankincense and myrrh by courier! What was special was that they made a long journey to be present.

Unwrapping presence is a process, an unfolding. Sometimes it’s a real surprise what is inside, even to yourself. Sometimes it takes time to unwrap, it may even appear like nothing is happening. But giving time to being present has the potential to make everything in our lives better. In and beyond the festive season, whatever we’re doing, whether it’s a HANDLE activity like Hug and Tug or preparing a meal, the impact of our offering is magnified many times when we unwrap our presence.

We look forward to connecting with you again in 2019. Happy unwrapping!


Thanks to Fredrik Lloyd for the inspirational print above that inspired this post.

What Great Parents Do: 75 Simple Strategies for Raising Fantastic Kids by Dr Erica Reischer

What great parents do.jpg

We’re starting a new series, reviewing books that we think are worth taking a look at.

First up, “What Great Parents Do” by Erica Reischer. I was actually surprised by how much I liked this book. I first picked it up from the library shelf with a kind of disdainful curiosity based on the title, but I soon discovered that Erica Reischer was not, as I’d thought, contributing to the culture of pressure to be a ‘perfect parent’ (Tip #12 “Great Parents aren’t perfect”) but instead offering a framework for cultivating a respectful and joyful relationship with your children.

The book is designed as a practical manual- it’s very readable, concise and clear. Each of the 75 tips is numbered and briefly described, then followed by a suggestion of how to implement it. Other related strategies are then cross-referenced. It makes it extremely easy to dip in and get some instant support or inspiration without having to wade through long chapters or lots of details.

Overall the guidance is sound, research-based and feels do-able. The heart of the philosophy guiding the book is the importance of cultivating “non-judgemental awareness- of yourself, of others (such as your family), and of the moment”. The key principles are Acceptance, Boundaries and Consistency. The tips outlined are tangible ways of putting all this into practice.

The tips themselves cover things like empathy (“If you don’t know what else to do, try empathy”); paying attention (“if we don’t notice what is happening, we can do little to change it”); avoiding reward economies; and very specific tips like avoiding saying “but”, and pivoting (“the art of saying yes instead of no, and meaning the same thing.”) Much of what she talks about isn’t new but I find reminders helpful, and bringing more awareness to what you’re already doing can help it all happen more smoothly and confidently. Otherwise the book is so succinct that if a section feels like old news you can just move onto another tip for some fresh inspiration.

This book comes recommended for people interested in caring for children with acceptance and awareness, but who don’t necessarily have time to read more than the odd few pages here and there.

Downsides: I’d have liked it if sometimes the cross-referencing had titles instead of just a number as it can get a bit distracting, at the same time it all helps to keep the book more concise. I’d also still lose the judgemental/labelling language from the title! But then I am a HANDLE provider…


Broken eggs and dolphins

Here is an extract from Elias's blog by his mother Janet, about their living and learning together. They have been doing a HANDLE® programme for six months and Son-Rise for two years. We wanted to share it because it's an inspiring story of love, dedication, openness and learning.

We hope you like it.


"I do not always feel comfortable writing and disclosing issues about our family life and my parenting in public. The last time I wrote in E's blog was about two years ago when we had just begun working with the Son-rise approach when I felt a "great sense of faith" that this approach would support E to choose to come out of his autistic world. Below, I want to share a few lessons that I/we have made over the past years by working with the Son-rise programme and a method called HANDLE, as well as with my own development as a parent/human.

My willingness to share came today when I sat with E on the couch and he suddenly suggested that he would read aloud to me from a book about dolphins. E read the whole book, I listened. After having finished the reading, he suggested that he would "draw letters", which we did. I gave him a pen and paper, wrote down some examples and just stayed watching. After finishing the alphabet he happily said he wanted to continue "typing numbers". I felt happy and proud; we had now reached a point in our relationship and in both of our developments when we really had achieved something important. What was it that felt so huge?"

You can read the rest of Janet's post here

A child's world

These are Alex's pictures. He drew the one on the left when he was 6, just after he started his HANDLE® Programme with Sean and the one on the right a year later. His mother is so proud of him she wanted to share them. I think the pictures show us not only how much easier it is now for Alex to hold and use a pencil but also something about his relationship to his body and his world.

We are excited by the many ways that HANDLE can help people. We hope that this year you'll be able to come and join us at one of our courses. We look forward to seeing you again or for the first time.


There's sweet and there's sweet

Our son really loves sweet things.  

He loves ice cream and sweets best of all but will guzzle up just about anything which has a high sugar content. We try and minimise his sugar intake but as he grows so does his social circle and there are lots of birthdays and 'treat times', all which involve the delights of sugar.   

Recently our osteopath recommended that he give sugar a break for at least three weeks as it appeared to be stressing his digestive system. "Three weeks!" we thought. It was tough at the start and social situations can be tricky but it has been a journey of discovery. The boy who didn't really like to be touched and could be a bit crabby and uncommunicative in the morning has become so sweet. We have taken the sweetness out of his diet and his sweet, gentle nature has flourished. His moods are more even and he welcomes and initiates touch. Instead of teasing or hitting his little brother he asks him for a cuddle.  He is also more available, communicative and empathetic.  

From a HANDLE® perspective this all makes sense. A less stressed internal environment can lower overall stress levels and have a positive effect on other systems such as the sense of touch. Less stress means we are more able to relate to our environment and those around us with ease and enjoyment.  Of course every child is different and changes are often the interplay of more than one thing but it is wondrous to behold the differences.

My next questions is how do we make this 'three weeks' a permanent thing? 


Riding a horsie

The Summer holidays are ending and we are packing away the camping gear and getting the school bags ready, though we'll still be heading outdoors whenever we can.

The National Trust have made a list of  50 things to do before you're 11 and three quarters. After this Summer our sons are well on the way to checking them off. The list starts with climbing a tree, camping in the wild and making wild art, includes catching a crab, star gazing, building a den and finishes with learning to ride a horse and canoeing down a river. The list is an inspiring reminder of the importance for all of us to make time to explore and adventure outdoors. Research from UCLA has shown that exercise enhances neuroplasticity by stimulating growth of new connections between cells in important cortical areas of the brain. 

Being in nature inspires a sense of wonder and eases the stresses of our busy daily lives. I'd like to make going on a walk barefoot my next item to check off, even though I'm a bit older than eleven and three quarters.