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)
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Highly Sensitive Children at School

One of the most common enquiries I receive here at the National Centre for High Sensitivity is from parents of Highly Sensitive Children (HSCs) who are struggling at school. In a way, those who are reading this Newsletter are quite likely to understand the very real challenges HSCs face during their education – after all, most of us are HSPs and remember all too well the joys and tribulations.Unfortunately, there are a lot of parents who, for quite an extended period, find themselves working through a maze of concerns and explanations for their child’s behaviour and responses and often come to the NCHS after years of worry or frustration. Reading Dr Elaine Aron’s book ‘The Highly Sensitive Child’, or coming into contact with an aware parent, therapist or teacher provides the impetus to reframe what is going on for their child and gives hope and direction for support.

Some children are fortunate to have parents like us, who with proper information and understanding, can attune to the needs of the highly responsive child – but others are not so fortunate. Although we as individuals cannot help each and every child we come across, something we can do is talk about high sensitivity (or high responsivity, sensory processing sensitivity) more freely. Even if our child is doing well in school and at home, let’s remember that this may be because we know how to support them to be all they can be. That is information that is very useful to share when the time is right.

It is becoming more and more important to help schools and their staff to understand the appropriate needs of HSCs. They have as much right as anyone to enjoy their schooling and to have their educational and welfare needs met in appropriate ways. Making up at least 15% of the school population, they are a significant minority who have lots to offer and whose failure to reach their full potential is often missed due to their better than average achievement levels and ability to hide or mis-define their stress.

If you have the ear of any professional person, do point them in the direction of Dr Elaine Aron’s books and remind them that they can access training and guidance through the NCHS (www.hspsensitive.com). We train professionals and also keep a list of people who have an interest in supporting highly sensitive people, children and their families. You can also help by volunteering to take part in important studies around education and highly sensitive children that are in the process of being set up at this time (contact us for more details).

In particular we have a fledgling project underway that is looking to provide more input for teenage HSCs. Although this is tiny at the moment, in the planning stage and working on a micro-budget, any input will help us to start thinking about how we can appropriately support highly sensitive teenagers at a time when pressure is on and identity and confidence are major growth areas.

barbara_allen-wIf you have any comments on the above, do please share them with us; and to those of you who have already started fledgling work projects, THANK YOU! My appreciation goes out especially to Nina, Nicole and Nicola who have all begun the worthwhile journey towards mentoring the next generation of parents and highly sensitive people .

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