I came across this interesting piece of research examining the emotional reactions of people who were classed as ‘Highly Sensitive’ on the Highly Sensitive Person rating scale. The study concluded (among other things) that individuals who were more sensitive to sensation were also more attuned to others and greater responsiveness to others’ needs.
From my experience of working with children who are sensitive and from my own sister being a highly sensitive (and brilliant!) person, It is certainly evident to me that this it true. Children who are sensitive to sensation tend to be sensitive emotionally. This could be perceived as a negative in that they may get upset or overloaded easily. However, more and more I see this sensitivity as a strength that should be valued. Children who are sensitive tend be the kind, intuitive, considerate and empathetic- all characteristics that we would be proud to be called ourselves.
Yet often, we (therapists, parents, siblings) give too much attention to the negative aspects of being sensitive and forget to pay attention to all the wonderful strengths that being sensitive brings. My sister has more friends than anyone I know . When she listens, she really listens, she strives to make others happy and emits a glow that draws people to her. However, I don’t think she would say that about herself. We (society, parents, siblings) have made her feel like a failure at times for being overwhelmed by ‘normal’ lifestyles.
One of my aims with writing the book was to give children who are sensitive a better understanding of what was happening in their body and a language to discuss sensory preferences openly without feeling to blame for the difficulties they were experiencing. My vision is that teachers, parents, other children would all know about ‘modulators’ and talk about their own too. So when the child who is sensitive is struggling with the noise, touch etc, they feel confident in asking for the sensory input they need to get their modulator calm again.
And in the mean time, (while I wait for the world to discover ‘modulators’), I will strive to convey to the children I work with (in the language I use and focus in the sessions), that the world is grateful for the kindness and empathy they are showing to us and wouldn’t it be great if everyone was a bit more like them.