Flourishing with Sensory Processing Sensitivity
I am highly sensitive and attend public high school. I am now on summer break and rejoicing for all that means. It’s incredible to be outside in nature compared to inside those loud, white and bright classrooms. Here is a scene that is fresh in my mind.
This past school year, I was required to take physics. Honestly, it was the hardest class I’ve taken in my life. After I took the final, I had convinced myself I had failed and was thinking about how summer school would ruin my summer. That was until I discovered I’d passed the class. It hadn’t helped that my teacher hadn’t known who I was the entire year and even in a room of only 28 kids, she called me another name through the last week of school. Even though we were in high school, we had a seating chart. For months I sat next to a guy I was not fond of. Like some high school boys, he had a strong smell of sweat that he brought to class and my seat each day. I tried to ignore the best I could but that lasted for about 3 minutes. I quickly found out that holding one’s breath to hide from a smell does not help, it simply makes it worse once you have to gasp for air when you cannot take it any longer. Often times we would be taking notes in class and for some reason he
would suddenly rip through his notebook wildly turning the pages creating a breeze and loud noise. This was more like a gust of wind and smell that would blow into my face and literally make me gasp.
I have always been a “poor test taker” as some people call it. I get so nervous that they’re weighted so much that if I don’t do well, my grade drops. Every month or so, the teacher hands out tests to each person and the room falls silent for 50 minutes. Occasionally people sneeze or cough and that rarely bothers me. One day I was fully engaged in taking an exam and suddenly felt distracted by an awful noise coming from my scentful pal sitting next to me. It honestly sounded like someone was chewing metal. When it first started I wondered if he was rolling a tooth around his mouth. It is hard to explain. I wish you could hear this and understand my horror. I attempted to rest the side of my head on my hand, hoping that would block out the noise. I tried tapping my pencil on the table to distract the sound but it never did anything. It honestly sounded like he was crunching metal in his mouth. I finished my test early so jumped online on my phone for the rest
of the period. The noise continued and I felt like something inside of me was building. I wanted to scream or cry, that’s how crazy I felt after listening to that for almost an hour. Here I was in class googling the word insanity to see if I fit the definition. Finally the sound of the bell blasted and I was relieved to leave.
Now I’m watching 11 birds fluttering around 1 feeder and smelling the fresh air through the windows. Physics is behind me and the songs of the birds find me peaceful.
Where was Heidi when I was in school?
Living as a highly sensitive person definitely has it’s ups and downs. If I had to choose, I wouldn’t get rid of my sensitivity because of the beautiful things I get to experience. My day begins at 5:25 which is always terrible because I am not a morning person.
At 6:29 I am on a bus headed to school. It makes me so happy to put headphones on and play music. I feel like listening to my favorite music early in my day somewhat prepares me for the many hours spent inside all day. Our bus travels through neighborhoods and crosses a bridge right before we reach school. I always sit on the right side of the bus so when we cross the bridge I can look to the right and see the perfect stillness of the water. Usually there is a reflection of the trees and clouds on the water. Passing this river daily reminds me of God’s presence throughout my day. I love that on a simple bus ride I can take in such beauty. I’ve passed that river 100’s of times and just once saw 3 deer standing beside it. 3 deer right near the center of our town! There’s always something beautiful that we can find that will make us smile, even when it appears to be something so boring as a ride to school.
I have been one..a highly sensitive child, that is.. Of course, when I was young there was no name for it, and no understanding as well. Now I am a sensitive adult, and most of these rules still apply… once sensitive, always sensitive.
I also have sensitive kids, so I have been through the parenting challenges of raising a highly sensitive child.
I have spent the last couple years researching this phenomenon, for lack of a better term. I have come up with a list of 7 things that every sensitive child wants you to know. There are SO many more things, but I want to give it to you in chunks..
Highly Sensitive kids love nature and animals. They ‘fill them up’ with positive energy, and heal their anxiety
Highly Sensitive kids have a very difficult time sleeping. They hear and see things that you don’t, unless you are also sensitive. So, if they tell you they are frightened by someone or something in their room, please believe them.
Highly Sensitive kids can tune into someone with bad or negative energy immediately. If they don’t like someone, or don’t trust someone, it is most likely for a reason.
Highly Sensitive kids are extremely sensitive to discipline. Because sensitive kids strive only to please, they are very upset by letting down their parents, siblings, and friends. For a sensitive child, words are like knives, so choose them carefully. Be kind and loving with discipline, because anything else simply overstimulates these children to the point of anxiety and fear.
Highly Sensitive kids have very few friends..and they are OK with that. They steer clear of the drama/energy associated with too many friends, and generally will gravitate toward like-minded kids and adults.
Highly Sensitive kids need time to decompress. Everyday.. or maybe a few times a day. To them, the world is a huge over-stimulant. By the time your sensitive child makes it through a day of school, an event or sometimes even the smallest issue, they may need to be by themselves to recharge. It is OK. This isn’t unhealthy. It is actually good for them to know when they need to recharge. Encourage it.
Highly Sensitive kids are extremely intuitive. When something needs to be discussed. It is best to be honest with them. They are generally very aware of other’s fears and problems. Therefore, if you are dishonest, and they are receiving a different message/feeling, it is very confusing to them. Trust is an issue with many sensitive kids, so be sure to always reinforce that they can always trust you.
In this together,