Is Our Educational System Making Highly Sensitive Pupils Sick?

This week I finally found I had had enough.  Over the years, I have heard, supported and vicariously experienced the difficulties of highly sensitive pupils, from all age groups.  Working alongside parents, I have observed a variety of school situations, referral protocols (educational and psychological), attitudes, beliefs and effects and quite frankly, I am in the main, very disappointed with the lack of training provided to teachers and other professionals responsible for meeting the education and emotional needs of sensitive children.  The lack of support given to parents of highly sensitive children and the sheer lack of critical thinking that is behind the way educators respond here in the UK to struggling HSCs in my opinion is beyond belief. So often I have met with parents who are in fact afraid of the educational system and its representatives and I have met with numerous highly sensitive children who are crying out for mercy from within a system that is exhausting, critical and judgmental.

As tempting as it is to have a jolly good rant, I realise that it would be more constructive to put together a proper plan of action to tackle these sad and unnecessary situations more powerfully and usefully.  So, if you are interested in addressing the lack of understanding and support for highly sensitive children in our education, these are the ways that you can have an input towards making a difference:

  • Firstly, if there are parents out there who are experiencing any concerns, or have in the past, about how their highly sensitive child is doing in the UK educational system – please let me know.  Is it something that is a general malaise, or has your child developed particular difficulties, either in their learning, their physical or emotional health?  Did you notice a change once your child went to school, or moved schools or got to a certain age?  Is the cause of the child’s discomfort a result of being in school, a particular activity, a topic, a cultural tone or unfair expectations, or is the school simply failing to take account of how outside matters are affecting them?
  • If you are a child who wants to tell me your concerns – please also contact me – teens can probably do this without help, but if you are younger, ask your parents to help you with this.
  • If you are a teacher who feels concerned that there is not enough knowledgeable support for you or your sensitive pupils, please contact me.  Also contact me if you feel the current set-up doesn’t work well for highly sensitive teachers.  Tell me about your training or lack of it, in the area of sensitivity.
  • Secondly, remember that if you have managed to sort out something positive from the situation, I will be delighted to hear about this also – what did you do?  who helped you?  what needed to happen?  what difference has it made and how are things as a result?  Have you consulted us here at the NCHS and found a way forward?  If your child has had a wonderful education in a wonderful setting, tell us all about it and why you think it worked.
  • Thirdly, tell me why it matters that sensitivity is taken into account and accommodated in our educational system.  We all know that each HSP is different, and some HSCs are more highly sensitive in different ways, so yes, some HSCs will cope better in some situations than other sensitive children – but even so, what is it that has made the path to resolution and thriving hard for both your child and you as a parent?
  • Is there an attitude or belief that schools, educational systems or others have that you feel is mistaken or blocking progress?
  • Lastly, when things go wrong, and you have a highly sensitive child who is beginning to suffer mental health or physical health problems due to stress, how well do the interventions you are offered do?  How long do you wait?  Do they correctly diagnose a problem, do they misdiagnose sensitivity for a problem.  Do they take your child’s sensitivity into account when they decide what to offer?  What do your children think?  What options do they have for improving their situation or future educational path?  Are there any myths expressed to you as parents or to your child about fitting in and getting on in life that you would like to ‘bust’?

I look forward to hearing from you via leaving a comment to this article at the bottom. If you write to us, I would be very grateful if you would be prepared for us to quote (in a generalised and anonymous way), the situation you are describing and the concerns and needs you feel you or your sensitive child have.  Writing up the real experience of this (large) minority within the school system might help us here at the NCHS to find a way to make a difference and get your views heard.  We may later also design a questionnaire to assist us in understanding and analysing where improvements are needed and where the best examples of our educational system lie in terms of how it meets the needs of HSCs. Please do consider letting us know if you would be prepared to fill out a questionnaire at some point (again, anonymously).

barbara_allen-wWell, thank you for reading this far!  I did not expect to be writing this today, but having done so, I do feel a bit better – even though I see that I have given myself a useful, but jolly big task to complete :).  I look forward to reading your comments about this.

Best wishes to you all and thank you in advance for any help you can give, whether in terms of telling us your story or opinion, or donations to the National Centre for High Sensitivity, (even if its just enough to buy a ream of paper!).

Barbara
Founder and Director
National Centre for High Sensitivity CIC
Article written by Barbara Allen (e-mail: accounts@hspsensitive.com)

Get Involved With Our Work

I’m in the midst of pushing to clear the way for the National Centre for High Sensitivity to receive funding and to fulfil more of its work in the ‘bigger picture’. It’s a long road and is taking even longer than I hoped. My meeting with Dr Elaine Aron in March impressed on me how important it is right now to raise awareness (of the accurate kind) and to push ahead in offering info and services in the UK to individuals and organisations. In order to do that, I need to spend more time on those activities, plus get enough rest and follow advice regarding recent health issues, so I have allocated time between now and September to plough ahead, with the help of one or two dedicated colleagues.

My main reason for emailing you at this time is to suggest that perhaps some of you might like to put on some Meetups for fellow HSPs during the Spring/Summer while I’m busy doing other stuff? It might be just offering what we have already, meeting up for conversations, info and cake, or, it might be that you have something else you would like to offer, either for a couple of hours or a full day. My dedicated HSP space in Andover is here if you want to use it, just give me enough notice so I can make sure it’s free. If you decide to run an event/Meetup here, do make a charge for whatever you are offering and make a partial donation from those funds to the National Centre for High Sensitivity CIC to help us with our fund-raising. Wherever you run your Meetup/event this Spring/Summer, do consider raising some money for the NCHS as part of its purpose.

Due to spending more time on other tasks, I’m going to need to refer HSPs and parents of HSCs for support and mentoring. Please, let me know if you would be willing to undergo some specific mentoring training from me to help HSPs either face to face here at the centre or by Skype/Zoom. In order to make sure that the National Centre benefits from having trained official NCHS Mentors, you will be expected to either pay for your training upfront, or, receive free training if you volunteer to provide 4 hours of mentoring per month for a minimum of 12 months. All trained mentors will have access to consultation with me both at an online group meeting every 6 weeks, plus individual time for urgent support – for volunteers, this support and consultation will be free of charge. Whilst counsellors may be suitable as Mentors, please be aware that Mentoring is not counselling, therefore you may be asked to refer any mentoring clients to appropriate counsellors should they also need counselling. More clarification on this will be provided during your NCHS Mentoring training.

Lastly, do you know of anyone who would like to be trained to voluntarily run regular NCHS Meetup group somewhere in the UK? Ideally someone who is used to supporting or leading people as individuals, in teams or groups. We have a Meetup in Hampshire and Berkshire at the moment. Hopefully we will restart a Sussex and Devon group soon, but we need more! HSPs contact the NCHS everyday asking about Meetups near them and most of the time I can’t even offer them something in the same part of the country let alone in their county – you can imagine how frustrating that is. Training for this is free if you fulfil twelve months of monthly Meetup facilitation as a volunteer. You can also pay for the training and do your own Meetup if you want to, or just set up without the training or the NCHS umbrella – the main thing is to get more Meetup opportunities out there for isolated HSPs. As an NCHS Meetup facilitator you would be trained to facilitate the Meetup and also expected to do some advance work ahead of the start of your Meetup to make sure people know about it and know where to find it. If you are a therapist, do discuss in supervision any boundary implications that you may need to negotiate – the NCHS would not expect to find itself turning away HSPs from Meetups because of past or ongoing counselling relationships with the facilitator. Please only apply, if you are truly in a position and enthusiastic to commit – I’m happy to train two facilitators for each county if necessary,  so that this relieves pressure of sickness and holiday cover.

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Well, that’s it for now. I hope you all have a lovely summer and hope there will be some interesting and fun events appearing on our HSP calendar soon 🙂

Best wishes,

Barbara

Article written by Barbara Allen (e-mail: accounts@hspsensitive.com)

Attending Elaine Aron’s Advanced Training

In March this year I was invited to attend an advanced training on Sensory Processing Sensitivity (the technical name for high sensitivity) with Dr Elaine Aron, the person who has conducted important research and written books that have helped us to understand and make the most of our genetically inherited trait.

Not being a scientist, I expected to find myself a little overwhelmed by the in-depth information, but was pleasantly surprised that despite my lack of familiarity with the ‘lingo’, I was able to understand, with the help of Dr Aron’s explanations, more about our trait and why it’s important that we understand even more about it.

We looked at many studies, including those of UK researcher, Michael Pluess and his colleagues, and grasped interesting insights into the neurological and genetic components that relate to SPS, (our differential susceptibility), what SPS is and equally importantly, what it is not, bi-modalilty and tri-modality.  I won’t go into all the ins and outs of the information here, its a bit complex for a short piece, but hopefully you will have the chance to look at some of the papers we studied at one of our events and take away a list for further study.

I was surrounded at this two day event, by 12 amazing colleagues from around the world, many of whom have researched and written books on the trait, are consciously working with HSPs and who like myself, had been invited for a reason.  It was clear that Dr Aron wanted to impart the ability to be able to talk about high sensitivity more fully to both the media and other professionals about our trait and most importantly, why it matters that we both understand it and make room for it in the way we design our world. Needless to say, it was an inspiring training and left me with renewed enthusiasm to return to the UK and do what I can to help educate and support both HSPs and non-HSPs to appreciate how we can improve the day-to-day experience of HSPs both adults and children, and also think about the roles they can play in families and  society as a whole that perhaps they feel they are limited in just now.

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So, onward and upward.  There’s a lot to do in the next couple of years, not least of which is trying to find some funding to help underpin the NCHS and its fledgling work in supporting highly sensitive adults and children.  Please don’t underestimate how much a small donation can do, to help us in reaching out and spreading accurate, useful information and appropriate support to those who need it.  If you would like to donate or know someone who does, please ask them to email me at accounts@hspsensitive.com and I will send the bank details so they can make a contribution.

Enjoy the summer and I hope to see you at one of our events later this year 🙂

Article written by Barbara Allen (e-mail: accounts@hspsensitive.com)