80% of adults are ‘normally sensitive’. You can easily put two and two together to see who writes the school curriculum for our children, and who writes and develops the teaching methods. It is usually the ‘normally sensitive adults’!
Therefore, it is not surprising that highly sensitive children are ignored when it is about responding to their needs. The problem starts with the fact that many adults do not even know about highly sensitive children. Many adults have a clichéd view of highly sensitive children as being:
Highly sensitive children are often called restless and exhausting because they react to certain situations, changes and tensions more sensitively.
But honestly: what one adult finds a pleasant scent, a reasonable volume or a good light, can be unpleasant for another. So why do we not allow highly sensitive children to feel differently? Why do we call them restless and fretful only because they express their irritation?
Highly sensitive children are often considered to be shy and are treated as such because nobody wants to make the effort to see the difference between being highly sensitive and being shy:
- For a start highly sensitive and shy people keep their distance from strangers, watching them before they approach them.
- However, highly sensitive children watch strangers very carefully, are curious, and after they have made their own judgement, they dare to make a step forward.
- Whereas shy children avoid any eye contact, are tense, nervous, and seem unhappy when they are expected to approach strangers.
Most people measure the state of being introvert or extrovert by the person’s sociability.
Introvert people often only have one or two friends, and they prefer this to being part of a big group. They would rather stay in the background, watching and thinking about what they see.
Extroverts like approaching others, talking to strangers and dealing with unfamiliar situations.
But there are also extroverts amongst the highly sensitive children! Therefore, it is important not to apply one standard to all, and automatically call highly sensitive children introvert.
Some experts with medical a background call the phenomenon of being highly sensitive a disorder. For them it is problematic when children are ‘too sensitive’, not being able to filter and coordinate external information and impulses.
This, for instance, appeals to behavioural therapists who apply sensory integration therapy to deal with the problem. They also see being over-sensitive as a problem which should be cured. (1)
Of course, highly sensitive children – just like normally sensitive ones – can have a sensory integration problem. However, seeing this high sensitivity as a basic problem, or wanting to therapeutically treat it, is for me an ‘over-sensitive reaction of insensitive adults’!
(1) Aron, Elaine N. ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’