Highly Sensitive Person Susse Penny Wright: Registered MBACP Integrative Counsellor
 Highly Sensitive Person SussePenny Wright: Registered MBACP Integrative Counsellor 

The Highly Sensitive Child in The Education System



Maybe you are reading this because you have sensed that your child is very sensitive or maybe you are a teacher or therapist trying to help a child you know, who you sense is very sensitive, more sensitive than other children you work with, or maybe you are just little curious as to what a highly sensitive child might be like. Whatever the reasons you have probably become aware that some children go through life less affected by their environment, their feelings and some children sense, feel and react, in their own way, strongly to what is around them, they feel things more deeply.


Conforming to the Educational Environment

As a parent you may have come across this situation. It's the first day back at school for your children. You at the playground and many of the children, although a little apprehensive, are keen to experience what is new, what is ahead of them, maybe a new teacher, a new class, meeting old friends again. But here is where the highly sensitive child may show a different response. As they sense all the new experiences around them, feel it more deeply, they may stop, seem quiet, even a little withdrawn. Many of these Highly Sensitive Children (HSC) may not want to rush in eagerly to the first day back at school. In fact many HSC’s may clearly show their caution, their adverse feelings to such a stimulating environment. Some may refuse to step through the school gate. As a parent you can see it coming, the silence, the serious face as you watch your HSC think deeply about what is coming upon them, about this intense experience and how they can best be within it. Some parents may wonder what on earth is going on, of course they cannot refuse to go through the school gate, that's just plain naughty. So as a very sensitive young person, in this moment, the HSC becomes acutely aware of their obligation to put aside their high sensitivity and find someway, whatever it takes to conform, so as not to let those they love, who right now are not getting them at all, down. This then may hang unresolved in their little sensitive souls for hours, days, weeks and maybe at worst left like this and carried through as a scaring memory into adult life.



Overstimulation Impacting Learning

But back into school has other issues too for the highly sensitive such as being aware of deep feelings, things that are going on in the classroom, the playground on a deeper emotional level. How can an HSC find away to put these deep feelings, sensitivity and awareness of their very stimulating environment to one side, enough to  allow them to concentrate on  learning.


Low Self Esteem

For many HSC’s this is not an easy task and maybe it's fair to say that many highly sensitive people who identify with being late developers can relate to the struggle they had to learn in early education. For many HSC this can cause other issues such as low self esteem which can impact confidence and then the ability to relate to others easily, as lack of confidence or low self esteem  can bring in issues of not being quite good enough to feel accepted by others.



What Can be done?

So what can be done about this? What are the issues that need to be considered here with a HSC at school? There are many issues that may arise for an HSC at school but two important ones seem to be overstimulation and low self esteem. Well dealing with over stimulation is something that all highly sensitives have to deal with and for many the need to escape or to have time out is imperative. But how does a HSC ask for this in a rigid school environment? Not easy I think most would agree. However if parents, teachers and all concerned are aware of an HSC temperament then this can help as they are the ones that have the power to adapt the  rigid educational environment to the HSC’s needs.  However,  if an HSC is then empowered to express their need to have time out, rather than feel inadequate about it, this must surely also help. Therefore an awareness of the HSC’s needs by  those caring, teaching or involved with the HSC, in the learning environment, is very important. Encouraging them to express their needs is also vital. The ability for those careers and teachers  to then take positive supportive action to accommodate an HSC’s very individual needs must also be crucial if an HSC is to thrive.


What about low self esteem. An HSC so often is painfully aware of how different they are to most of their peers. Often the abilities of those non HSC’s such as an enthusiasm for competitiveness, a keen desire to just get on with it, an ability to brush of fears easily and focus on the work, is prized by both teachers, parents, carers and then children. Those more sensitive traits that an HSC may have such as empathy for fellow peers, a deep imagination, a strongly developed ability to emotionally reflect, are not so prized within the mainstream core curriculum. However it is these qualities that later in life are so useful in society. For parents, teachers and all those involved in the educational environment, maybe keeping sight of this and expressing this to an HSC when ever possible may help them, at this very sensitive stage of their life, to feel empowered, to feel good about themselves. This in tern must surely help them to develop a stronger  feeling of self worth, to overcome any feelings of low self esteem. These empowering moments in early education can be the seeds of a confident and secure HSP later in life.

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