Gentle Enhancement® is one of the foundations of The HANDLE approach. It means: to gently enhance capabilities, toward functionality.
The intent of each HANDLE activity is to offer only as much input as each individual can use at any given time. That amount is different for each person. Providing the correct amount and type of stimulation guides the program of HANDLE Activities developed for each individual served.
This operating principle is based on the understanding that disorganized, immature, or damaged brain/body systems become less functional or may shut down when stressed. Stressed systems don’t improve.
Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system. The body’s natural resources become dedicated to the fight or flight response leaving few resources available for other processes, such as maintenance and repair internally, and learning and behavior externally.
The fight or flight response prepares us to deal with any threat to safety. For an individual with sensitive systems too much input may be perceived as a threat. That perception may not match what an observer experiences so below is a list of observable indicators of stress.
People who are taught HANDLE activities are instructed to stop that particular activity for that day at the first sign of stress.
A sustained stress response may cause health problems such as: digestion/absorption problems, immune system problems, sleep disorders, even cardiac conditions. The HANDLE paradigm has long asserted that stress interferes with cognitive function, influences mental health, and alters the structure of the brain. This assertion is now validated in neuroscientific research.
The HANDLE paradigm encourages people to embrace Gentle Enhancement as a way of life. Whenever a task or situation produces indications of increased stress, the individual is encouraged to do one or more of the following:
• Take a break from the task or situation that caused the stress.
• Change the structure of the task, or the environment in which it occurs.
• Diminish irritants.
• Adopt relaxation techniques.