From as far back as I can recall, I was always known as a highly sensitive kid, prone to getting emotional and shedding tears over things that didn't seem to affect other kids. This is why when I encountered the term "Highly Sensitive Person" I felt compelled to learn more about it.
The term "Highly Sensitive Person" (HSP) was first introduced by psychologists Elaine Aron and Arthur Aron in the mid-1990s, and since then, interest in this personality trait has continued to grow. HSPs have an elevated sensitivity in their central nervous system, which results in increased responsiveness to physical, emotional, and social stimuli. Although there is no official HSP diagnosis, individuals categorized as highly sensitive make up about 15-20% of the population. It is a personality trait that can bring both difficulties and advantages.
Highly sensitive individuals are often labeled as "overly sensitive," as they struggle to disregard things that others might not give much attention to. They may cry, spend a lot of time talking about a particular issue, or become unsettled in circumstances that appear normal to others. A sensitive nervous system can cause HSPs to perceive any stimulus as disorienting, overwhelming, and stressful. The HSP often feels others do not understand these struggles, leading to increased self-criticism, isolation, and shame.
From an Applied Behavior Analysis perspective, I know that all educators always strive to empower and support their students. However, it can be challenging to pay attention to those who are quieter, well-behaved, and don't seem to seek attention. Highly sensitive kids may appear to not be listening, daydream, avoid eye contact and conversations, choose not to participate to avoid mistakes and negative reactions from others, put in extra effort to well behave, and easily get upset by comments that wouldn't affect other kids.
Thus, it's important to consider that school can be an overwhelming and unpleasant experience for HSP children sometimes. These children may appear to be inattentive or overreact in situations, but it is simply their way of coping with feeling overstimulated. It's important for educators, counselors, therapists, and family members to understand this trait and provide support and guidance to help HSP children open up, express their feelings and address their challenges and feel proud of their unique qualities.
If you are a parent, educator, counselor, coach, or spouse of someone who is highly sensitive, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with this concept and being more sensitive to those who may be HSPs in your life.
Here are some resources you may find helpful: https://hsperson.com/