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What is a Highly Sensitive Child?


A highly sensitive child is one of the fifteen to twenty percent of children born with a nervous system that is highly aware and quick to react to everything. This makes them quick to grasp subtle changes, prefer to reflect deeply before acting, and generally behave conscientiously. They are also easily overwhelmed by high levels of stimulation, sudden changes, and the emotional distress of others. Because children are a blend of a number of temperament traits, some HSCs are fairly difficult--active, emotionally intense, demanding, and persistent--while others are calm, turned inward, and almost too easy to raise except when they are expected to join a group of children they do not know. But outspoken and fussy or reserved and obedient, all HSCs are sensitive to their emotional and physical environment.


What Do I Do About My HSC?


First, appreciate that this is a wonderful trait. It is no illness or syndrome. Nor is it something new I made up or "just discovered." It is an inborn temperament or style that is found in about twenty percent of children and of nearly all animals. Anything so persistent is not abnormal. It represents a strategy of taking everything into account before acting (the other, more common innate strategy is to act quickly and be first, then think later). The trait serves an important purpose for the individual sensitive person and for the larger society--for example, sensitive persons sense danger and see the consequences of an action before others do.  


Unfortunately, the trait has been somewhat misunderstood in our culture, so that most psychologists and parents tend to see only one aspect of some sensitive children and call this trait shyness, inhibitedness, fearfulness, fussiness, or "hyper" sensitivity. If one could see inside the mind of a sensitive child, however, one would learn the whole story of what is going on--creativity, intuition, surprising wisdom, empathy for others...


But, for all of that to blossom, they absolutely must be raised with understanding. Otherwise, as adults they are prone to depression, anxiety, and shyness.

             

              

              

              


Highly Sensitive

Children

The Highly Sensitive Child (HSC) has many features in common with a child who has Sensory Processing Dysfunction (SPD), which is addressed in detail on this site. Dr. Messenger is continuing to research children who are described as “sensitive” or even “difficult.”  For now, there is a resource at the end of the\is page.  Until more data is available, this page is ……

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