My knowledge of autism began over 50 years ago. I myself could have been diagnosed Autistic. When I was three, I had no intelligible speech, engaged in numerous self-stimulatory behaviors, avoided social interaction, had difficulty chewing and digesting food, and demonstrated unusual emotional responses to everyday situations. Casual observers could have re-confirmed this diagnosis: I turned my tricycle upside down, resting it on its handlebars and seat so I could pedal and watch the front wheel go round and round and round for whatever time I had left to "ride my bike." And like so many other children with autistic behaviors, I rarely sustained visual focus on stationary objects. Why should I? After seeing them momentarily, recording them in my eidetic memory, any further attention would bore me.

Years later, I used this memory skill to review "archives" in my brain through the perspective attained from a comprehensive adult education. Applying more than twelve years of advanced studies in neuroscience and human development and learning, and ongoing research and education, I began to articulate and teach others how to traverse this phenomenon labeled Autism-and other neurodevelopmental and neurological disorders, too.

The July edition of the Autism Asperger’s Digest published abbreviated portraits of a few children who have benefited from my experience. These vignettes offer insights into the HANDLE® approach as it relates to individuals diagnosed with autism. Marlene Suliteanu, who wrote these sketches, is a relative newcomer to the formal aspects of the Holistic Approach to NeuroDevelopment and Learning Efficiency, but a veteran in realizing the remarkable possibilities when neural plasticity and the human spirit are unfettered by medication or by social restrictions. Marlene, my older sister, observed, sometimes to her great embarrassment, my journey from autism. She has also witnessed the evolution of HANDLE from my early years as a consultant, diagnostician and therapist, to 2002, when HANDLE’s perspective is sought by a number of families and therapists, educators and medical practitioners in various locations in the world.

Interest in HANDLE comes from people-and/or their caregivers-with a wide array of labeled syndromes, not just from those involved with autism. Once caregivers understand the root causes of disorders, they can help people who have problems of attention, of activity level, of hand-flapping and head-banging, of compulsive behaviors, of memory, of sleep disturbances, of learning (social and academic, language and motor), of efficiency.

From its inception in 1994, as a nonprofit agency, The HANDLE Institute has provided information to communities around the world, to engender crucial paradigm shifts. First, that the body organizes the brain through movement. Second, that humans function as complex interactive systems housed in one body, each part continually affecting every other part. Third, that the efficiency of that interactive function can improve naturally. Fourth, that addressing end-point behaviors-such as self-care tasks, reading/writing/math (etc.), or social conventions-ultimately fails because it does not enlist the neurodevelopmental foundations common to all the behaviors. And fifth, that growth, progress, change CAN occur. For some this is a difficult shift to make.

This shift requires several elements:

  • a willingness to view presenting concerns in a nonjudgmental fashion, without scores and labels. Each of us is an individual.
  • an understanding that the body has reasons for the behaviors it demonstrates as it instinctively protects itself in the areas of greatest vulnerability. To gain a true understanding of these vulnerabilities, one must observe the symptomatic behaviors without judging how well they meet societal (conforming) demands. Interfering with these protective behaviors harshly and arbitrarily, before one understands their message and what the repercussions of behavioral or pharmaceutical interference may be-this, frankly, is dangerous. At best such interference will only mask behaviors and put problems off for another day or area of expression.
  • Respect for the individual’s experience, honoring signs the body gives that one or more system is overwhelmed. Stressed systems do not get stronger.
  • And lastly, a truly holistic and developmental approach, taking into account the various factors and how they interact with one another.

From this perspective, there is not one answer to autism. Autism is not caused by vaccinations nor by insufficient pancreatic enzymes, as some current theories purport, no more than it is caused by poor parenting – a common attitude a few decades ago. However, that does not mean that vaccinations and digestion and parenting are not elements to take into consideration. By studying autism, many answers will emerge, with several shared components. Information gleaned from this study can be applied to other problems as well.

Read the full article in the current issue of the Autism Asperger’s Digest…order today!