Cover story by Sean in  Autism Eye magazine

Cover story by Sean in Autism Eye magazine

Article by Sean in  ABC Magazine

Article by Sean in ABC Magazine

Article by Sean in Autism File Magazine

Article by Sean in Autism File Magazine

A family's experience of HANDLE in Autism File Magazine

A family's experience of HANDLE in Autism File Magazine


Feldenkrais: "I couldn't recommend it more..."

I have been running a HANDLE Programme for my son with autism at the Brighton Learning House for many years but just started having Feldenkrais for myself and I am totally over the moon with this gentle and yet such efficient method. I normally suffer constant pain on my neck and shoulders and headaches from bad posture and other attempts at treatment with Physiotherapists only made the pain worse. With Feldenkrais it is the first time I feel genuine relief and I can sit and walk in a proper posture because it feels natural to me not because I am forcing it. I couldn’t recommend it more!
— Simone Taylor, parent

Experiences of progression after the HANDLE Level 1 and 2 Course...

I would like to thank you again for what I learned during the course. It really helped my son. He has made huge progress since last summer. He is less clumsy, he has better coordination. He learned to swim (!!!), he is able to jump rope and he even started to climb trees. His behaviour is also changing, he is more flexible, hasn’t had a meltdown for weeks now and he is going better at school. Of course we are trying a lot of things to help him, but including HANDLE® exercises and massages in his daily routine has made a huge difference.
— Participant on our HANDLE Level 1 and 2 course
Finally, reasons and answers. I’ve waited over 15 years to discover HANDLE but it’s been worth the wait. Can’t wait to spread the word, especially to all those families with ‘Tourettes’ members, that there is hope and alternative approaches to drugs are available with wonderful folk here in the UK.
— Kim Storey, SEN Teacher and parent after taking our HANDLE Level 1 and 2 course
My four year old daughter has Rett Syndrome, she clenches her hands constantly at the same time as pulling her index finger across the inside of her palm. Gradually, over the last couple of years I noticed that her index finger was beginning to bend through all the pulling and clenching. I raised my concerns about the health of her hands to numerous occupational therapists and physiotherapists on many many occasions. They never seemed to be able to give me any answers or any direction. I attended the HANDLE Introductory course and learnt the “Hug and Tug” activity. After three weeks of daily “Hug and Tug” I noticed that all her fingers had grown and more importantly her index finger had started to straighten out. Absolutely amazing! I couldn’t believe it!

On our next visit to my daughter’s Osteopath, without prompting, she also noticed her fingers had grown and that they were less bent.

The only thing I had done differently during this period was “Hug and Tug”.
— Participant on HANDLE Level 1 course

Families' HANDLE Programme experiences...

We began HANDLE for our son Henry to help him with his remaining challenges. To name a few, Henry’s spontaneous speech was visibly hard for him, he was very restricted with his diet, unable to sit still, very reluctant to write and found it difficult to keep himself regulated and had frequent meltdowns. Since we began HANDLE Henry has become noticeably more calm and grounded and able to self regulate and his speech has improved in terms of fluency. 6 weeks after starting HANDLE Henry ate a chicken nugget! Something we had been working on for about 5 years!

HANDLE has complimented our Son-Rise programme perfectly and is a wonderful way to help your child with areas of challenge with wonderful support. Sean always makes sure the activities are suitable for Henry and offers numerous ideas and amendments to ensure that Henry is motivated and interested in the activities and we have been able to work on many goals and through periods of high anxiety for henry also. Our only regret is that we didn’t start HANDLE earlier.
— Penny, mother of Henry
Thanks to HANDLE I started to look at my child with different eyes, understand more underlying issues and constantly learn how to interpret behaviours to address them (these issues I mean). We worked with ABA before we started HANDLE and I was so grateful for every little progress Alex has done. At the same time I was a bit disappointed that he is not one of those wonder children that overcome autism in a no time... After 2 years of ABA training he could say 400 words, but still has not used them to communicate. It was impossible to teach him prepositions. I could not imagine that there is something wrong with his motor skills, balance etc... He walked, ran or jumped as any other kid.

It was thanks to Sean and HANDLE that I understood that Alex’s vestibular system is so challenged, that he has such weak hands that it is just impossible for him to draw or write, that he does not play with his toys because he simply cannot find them in his room, that all the problems with eating originate in his mouth and he does not feel what he eats, cannot chew etc... Now after just nine months Alex uses not only speech, but also eye contact, gestures and mimics to communicate, he seeks contact with other kids, he plays with his toys adequately and can find them! He solves problems and recently he started to build pretty complicated train tracks. His eating has improved by far, he sleeps better. Yes, he does awful plenty of things better... I used to say “in a normal way”. And do not ask me when it all has happened, because I don’t know.

We still have a journey ahead of us, and he is not yet on the level of his neurotypical peers, but he improves literally every day in a seamless way. Yes, we do “work” every day for 10 min (if only strict HANDLE activities) to 2 hours and more if we count in all the play. But it is so fun and he loves it and asks for more! So different from demanding ABA training, which we still use for all the school skills that he needs to automatize.
— Joanna, mother of Alex

An Occupational Therapist integrates HANDLE into her practice after attending the Level 1 and 2 Course...

I am an Occupational Therapist (OT) who completed the introduction to HANDLE course many years ago. At the time I was working in the NHS as the lead OT for acute stroke care as well as imputing into neurosurgery, neurology and Intensive Care.

HANDLE opened my eyes, showing me that there is so much more we can do as therapists to support our patients regardless of diagnosis or in my practice, the stage of recovery post neurological event. Occupational Therapy for my patient group at the time was viewed by many as limited since the patients were too acutely unwell to be engaging in functional tasks. Through working with patients and their families, I was able to find a way in, an understanding without words about the patient before me. More often than not, the patients were exhibiting behaviours that others would call disruptive, reactive and on occasions aggressive. As I worked with the patients, in applying sensitivity and intuition, and through the application of the HANDLE philosophy and exercises, I came to recognise the therapeutic value of HANDLE in adults. I witnessed first hand the calming influence of HANDLE, and often felt in the eye contact gained with my patients that we understood one another. This was reflected in a a small number of families approaching me to ask whether I did private work as they felt too the therapeutic connection and the calming influence the approach had.

Since that time I have worked in the community neuro rehab teams as well as in-patient neuro-rehab. HANDLE has remained one of my fundamental approaches, as I feel clinically it enables me to support the subsystems of function, through better aiding the registration, processing and integration of sensory experiences. In fact, I would say HANDLE is no longer a conscious thing, it’s part of my overall approach. I feel as a therapist it equips you with a sixth sense.

While working as a locum on a stroke unit, I received the comment from the lead OT that they had never had so many people discharged with such good recovery in their affected upper limb. Out of 10 patients discharged in a 3 month period, 8 of them were mine, 7 of which had functional upper limb recovery. All received HANDLE exercises integrated into their programmes. One particular patient I recall, had no function in her right hand when I met her. In fact her hand was splinted 24/7. When she was discharged 3 months later, she was using her hand to hold a hairdryer and was baking.

I also had a patient who had double vision after a mild stroke. She wore an eye patch. We did face tapping one the Monday and on the Tuesday when I walked on to the ward she shouted me to come over. Her face beaming, she told me for the first time since her stroke she walked to the toilet in the morning without her eye patch and with no double vision! She believed it was the face tapping.

The accolades for HANDLE are too many to mention in this statement. I recognise there are many variables and know that HANDLE doesn’t stand alone. It’s included as part of an eclectic approach, although it’s principles are guiding ones. Many would attribute the gains patients report as being due to spontaneous recovery, maybe so, but I’m not convinced.

I had another patient who arrived on the stroke unit while I was away on leave. At the Monday morning handover on my first day back, the physio turned to me and said we are so glad you’re back. This patient had been refusing to see anyone else for treatment until I had seen them as they’d heard great things from a previous patient about what I did for them. When I went to see this patient the first thing they asked me is could I do face tapping with them! I worked with them for 2 months and on the day they left, they did face tapping on me!

I’d like to finish with a reflection on my most recent experience, which is with a gentleman I met when working in Australia. This gentleman had suffered from a significant brain haemorrhage leaving him with both physical and communication difficulties. When I first met him, he was overly active both physically and mentally. He lived in his head space, and this would interfere in the quality of his walking and speech. These were the focus of his two main goals. I worked with him, introducing face tapping, skull tapping, ear muffs and crazy straw, being mindful that he was hypersensitive to the area of his head where he had neurosurgery - the cerebellum. The first session was interesting as for the first time, the room fell silent, the energy lowered and the patient became calmer. They took the exercises away with them and the week after, both the patient and his carer reported huge gains in terms of quality of sleep and pronunciation of words, leading to more clarity and less frustration. The patient continued with these exercises and while the biggest gains were not necessarily on their functional abilities but on their sense of self, and their acceptance of needing to nurture the support systems to function. They started to meditate and complemented their exercises with breath work. I still wonder how that patient is doing now.

While HANDLE may be portrayed as being specific to children with neuro-developmental difficulties, I believe it can support anyone at any stage of life and with any neurological weakness / condition. For me HANDLE nurtures and enables our central nervous system to better integrate all the information being presented to us. We are all subjects of our own experience and for some of us, some areas of function are not as robust as others, causing restrictions to learning.
— Helen Brennan, OT