Mini-Review: The Highly Sensitive Child
The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron, Ph.D. is a book for parents and others who have a child in their life with the trait of sensory processing sensitivity as this is known in the scientific literature. Aron describes this trait as having four aspects, and that without all four, it is probably not the trait of high sensitivity this book refers to. The four aspects are represented by DOES:
-Depth of processing
-being easily Overstimulated
-being Emotionally reactive generally and having high Empathy particularly; and
-being aware of Subtle Stimuli.
This book includes a questionnaire to assess if a child may be highly sensitive (a quiz is also available on Elaine Aron's website, hsperson.com). Indicators include “sensitivity to everything” such as scratchy clothes, the taste of food, odors, loud noises, or changes in routine. Highly sensitive children (HSCs) may also dream vividly, experience distress at scary content, and appear reserved or fearful in new situations. They may tend towards perfectionism, often have hurt feelings, or be particularly bothered by criticism.
What does it mean if your child is part of the 15-20% of children who are HSCs? This is not a disorder, and does not mean a child should be labeled “overly sensitive” as though something is wrong with them. While there can be challenges for both child and parent when this trait is present (and the book provides in-depth content on addressing challenges), deep awareness and processing can also bring deep meaning and exceptional gifts that the world needs.
What does it mean for parenting if you have an HSC? Aron says research suggests that skilled parenting makes an even bigger positive difference for HSCs. The book covers in depth what it means to understand and support an HSC, both if you as a parent are highly sensitive (including coping emotionally when you are both reacting strongly to something), and when you are not highly sensitive (including recognizing your child has a different experience of the world than you do, and offering effective support). If you're a highly sensitive person who is also a parent, I recommend checking out Elaine Aron's book "The Highly Sensitive Parent."
The Highly Sensitive Child can be life-changing for both child and parent and I recommend looking into it if you suspect your child is an HSC. And it can be a wonderful resource for teachers and others who regularly work for children.