Brain injury can occur before, during or after birth. It may be the result of intake of toxic substances by the pregnant mother or by the individual. Brain injury may be due to lack of oxygen to the brain, disruption of blood flow, or direct tissue injury. Illness may result in brain damage due to high fever, seizures, swelling, reduced oxygen or infection. Trauma may be the cause of some damage. Degenerative brain diseases, genetic disorders, tumors and cysts also occur.
Persons suffering from brain injury may display sensory disturbances, motor dysfunction, memory problems, word finding and fluency problems, poor balance, paralysis, changes in muscle tone, mood changes, personality changes and much more. These changes may be reflective of direct injury to the body, to the brain, or to underlying systems and integrated functions.
The HANDLE® approach recognizes two primary functions that are weakened with brain injury, vestibular (inner ear) function and interhemispheric integration (communication between the two sides of the brain).
The vestibular system supports vital functions such as:
The vestibular system helps us sense motion acceleration and deceleration, starting and stopping, the pull of gravity and changes in barometric pressure.
Interhemispheric integration supports important function such as:
Interhemispheric integration can be disrupted by shearing of nerve fibers; biochemical changes; direct trauma; pressure due to tumors, cysts, or swelling; lack of oxygen; poor or disrupted myelination (protective covering) of nerve fibers; disruption of blood flow.
An organized, sensitive vestibular system together with strong interhemispheric integration is required to support multi-tracking. Examples of multi-tracking include listening while filtering unnecessary sounds, looking at someone wearing a patterned shirt (implying movement) talking and gesturing, maintaining the body in a balanced, upright position and attempting to take notes. When we cannot sustain all these things simultaneously, we cannot perform well in daily life. We may not even be able to gain full benefit from therapeutic tasks we are asked to perform.
Some physical/sensory disorders common to a vast majority of TBI individuals include issues of altered muscle tone, visual disturbances, heightened sensitivity to sound, diminished sense of balance and body in space and more. Frequently rehabilitation specialists work on these areas as splinter skills, instead of dealing with the system that supports all of these abilities—the vestibular system.
Each person who has experienced a brain injury is an individual, with unique life and developmental experiences. For this reason it is important to learn each person's functional patterns and to design program that speak to the individual needs.
A full HANDLE evaluation and HANDLE program is recommended for individuals with a brain injury. The program deals first with lowest level underlying functions, and later with higher level functions and the connections among the many functions we require to take-in, organize, and act upon stimuli and demands in the everyday environment.
In children and adults alike, the nervous systems respond to repeated movement patterns and proper nutrition by altering their neuro-physiological responses, organizing mental processing, and changing the very structure of the brain. HANDLE relies on the fact that the nervous system is intended to adapt continually throughout the lifespan. Through regular gentle enhancement (link) of weak functions and providing proper nourishment to strengthen the nervous system, weak aspects of the nervous system can be permanently strengthened. Each program is customized for effective application in the client's home or other supportive setting. The program usually requires less than a half hour daily to complete, doesn't have to be done all at once, or even in a certain order
“HANDLE has really helped me become more organized. It helped me use my left hand; before I never used it at all because I have left hemiparesia. I play piano and can play in sports for the first time. I am so much more able to accomplish anything I want to do. I am so pleased I can do more with other people. I CAN RIDE A BIKE WITH MY FRIENDS I could never get my cerebral palsied side to help balance until HANDLE.”
~ “Spike” Bauer, Homer, Alaska