Tag Archives: Elaine Aron

High Sensitivity is NOT a Disorder – Back to Basics

I’ve had quite a few opportunities to discuss high sensitivity with parents and teachers over the summer holiday, which honestly feels very good for two reasons: one, it’s great to be able to clear up some very common misconceptions about what it is to be sensitive or to have a highly sensitive child, and two, people are actually interested!

I still find it very hard to believe that not long ago, I had no answers to any of my questions regarding my child. None. My husband and I had no clue what was up.

We were constantly struggling to try and answer questions like “Why is he like that?” and “Why won’t he join the other kids?”

Too many times we’ve been told by friends, family, teachers and caregivers that our child was different, that we were encouraging this, and that that was not a good thing.

For years it hurt. It hurt to be blamed for the struggles our child was going through. It hurt to worry and wonder whether there was in fact a serious problem we should be trying to solve or manage. It hurt that we were at a loss.

And after we did find out that our son was highly sensitive, it hurt to get that look from people when we tried to explain there was nothing wrong with our child.

But here we are today, at peace and happy (knock on wood). Our child is more carefree than he’s ever been, makes friends in seconds, and is enjoying life the way we all should. And I find myself at this point, not long after the dreadful sleepless nights filled with questions without answers, discussing this thing called “high sensitivity” with people who want to hear about it.

High Sensitivity is NOT a Disorder - Blog Post by Sensitive and Extraordinary Kids - Leila Boukarim

Earlier this month, I was interviewed by a lovely journalist, Brigitte Rozario, for her parenting site called Thots n Tots. I was asked to explain what high sensitivity was, and how it was different from autism. I’ve also been asked by several people over the last few weeks how sensitivity differs from sensory processing disorder. Those are all very valid questions because after all, even though they essentially very different things, a lot of the behaviors displayed can be very common. But that’s also why it’s a good idea to have our children screened if we feel like they might need more help than we can give them on our own.

The best articles to read on the subject are, in my opinion, those written by Elaine Aron herself. Dr. Aron is the researcher who coined the term “highly sensitive”, has been studying the trait since the nineties, and has written numerous books and articles on the topic. This one sums up the differences very nicely while this one goes more in depth.

To sum things up even further, I have highlighted a few of my interview answers below. But if you have the time, please go ahead and read the whole thing.

What does “highly sensitive child” mean?

High sensitivity is an evolutionary character trait found in 20% of the population regardless of age, race and gender. It is also found in over 120 other animal species. Highly sensitive people are genetically programmed to feel things more deeply and experience the world more intensely due to a highly tuned nervous system. Most importantly, high sensitivity is not a disorder and does not need to be treated.

How is it different from autism?

Autism is a developmental disorder that requires treatment and behavioural therapy. High sensitivity is a character trait that does not need to be fixed. Although some of the behaviours displayed might be similar to some extent, the causes are very different.

Not much is known about it. Do you see this as a problem to parents and children? How?

It is a serious problem not knowing why your child stands out of every crowd and not knowing why that is or what to do about it. When we found out our son was simply highly sensitive, not only did we get the peace of mind that we were desperate for, but we learned how to manage our expectations and how to speak to our child and deal with him in a way that made him feel supported, loved and understood. Knowing what he needed helped us figure out when to back off and let him do things at his own pace. When our attitudes, expectations and behaviour was changed appropriately, our son eventually began to metamorphose into a confident and independent little boy.

Not knowing your child is highly sensitive and setting unreasonable expectations that obviously will not be met can be frustrating to parents and detrimental to a child’s self-esteem.

And, what is your opinion on labeling your child as highly sensitive?

Like most people, I am not a fan of labels. However, I do believe that understanding the challenges your child faces daily and the reasons for this is crucial if we want to help our children. The label should serve to explain to those who play an important role in our children’s development (teachers, doctors, caregivers, etc.) what they need to flourish and why. What the label should not do is segregate our kids from the crowds to which they belong.

Head on over to Thots n Tots for loads of interesting articles. Also please do read the ones I’ve linked to in my post; they are very helpful to those trying to understand or explain what high sensitivity is.

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Clash of the Sensitives

When Parent and Child Are Both Highly Sensitive

My six year old is highly sensitive. He is growing and learning about himself and the world around him. He is constantly thinking about everything, over analyzing every situation and occurrence so that even the most trivial of things become challenging. Because his brain is in overdrive, he has trouble falling asleep at night. Tired, confused and emotional, he tends to get overwhelmed with everything, much too often.

I am a highly sensitive mother of two boys. I am an expat living oceans away from my family, trying to run a house, juggle two jobs, and raise my kids right while desperately struggling to take care of myself and enjoy life’s journey. I think too much. I analyze everything to shreds. I have trouble falling asleep. I am tired all the time. And I get overwhelmed with everything, much too often.

Clash of the Sensitives: When Parent and Child are both Highly Sensitive - Sensitive and Extraordinary Kids, Highly Sensitive Children, Relationships, love

A few weeks ago, my son was making his way through yet another phase. During this unpleasant time, there was a lot of arguing, yelling, teasing, and door slamming. There was defiance, anger, and yes, even tantrums. The storm has since passed, but I find myself thinking about it now, wondering if it was triggered by something specific, fearful that perhaps that something might have been me.

I have spent countless hours over the years asking myself if I’m doing the whole parenting thing right, spending enough time not at home with the kids but rather with the kids. Am I listening as much as I should? Am I giving them what they need? Am I yelling too much? Am I a yeller?

And if I don’t like the answers to those questions, how can I change?

Most days I honestly feel like I have nothing left to give. I am drained physically and emotionally, incapable of even speaking to my husband once the kids are in bed. If I conclude that I in fact need to “give more”, how in the world would I do that?

So here comes the big question: How do you give your highly sensitive children everything they need when you’re not getting what you need?

Too often, I come across advice articles online giving stressed out moms the secrets to a happy life in the form of lists of things to do designed to help you cope with the grind of daily life. One common theme that stands out is “self-care”, and that’s about the only thing that makes sense to me while reading through them. The how-to’s on the other hand, while very sensible and lovely, serve only to plant a seed of doubt in my head that I can easily do without.

Drink a cup of tea in a quiet room. Run a warm bath with essential oils. Exercise. Eat healthy, balanced, warm meals.  Get plenty of fresh air. Yeah, right.

Over the years, I have come to learn that life doesn’t always accommodate routines that are ideal, routines that make room for tea and relaxation and sunshine. The days are long, and they’re full on. There is constantly something happening and things need to get done. There’s no time for loveliness, which is very unfortunate because loveliness is essential.

That’s not to say that I don’t get any pleasure out of life at all. I do. Life is good (most of the time), even if it doesn’t involve candles and sweet smelling oils. With time, we adapt to the pressures of life and find our own little ways to empty our buckets. I have my coping-strategies list, but it’s one that works for me and my lifestyle and my circumstances. It consists of things like listening to music while cleaning the kitchen, drinking hot cocoa on a stool in the bathroom while the kids are in the tub, reading books on my daily commute, and meditating with Andy for ten minutes on Headspace. I can’t claim it works for everyone, but it works for me.

When I get my music, cocoa and ten minutes in the dark; when I empty out my bucket, I’m ready to help my child empty his. Once we’re both calm, we can sit down and talk to each other, share our feelings, discuss what went wrong and how we can prevent it from happening again. We apologize to each other and promise we’ll do better tomorrow. We hug, we kiss, we cuddle, and love washes over us, neutralizing all the negativity that consumed us when things got to be too much for either of us to bear.

The lovely people who brought Dr. Elaine Aron’s work to life last year with their documentary “Sensitive, The Untold Story” are working hard to do it again! This time, they’re working on an important piece called Sensitive In Love, which focuses on highly sensitive people and relationships. It was actually this project that got me thinking about my relationship with my highly sensitive son, one that has come a long way from the day he came into my life, a sweet little stranger, and will continue to change and grow as we both grow together.

Being highly sensitive involves emotions that often feel too big for us to contain, which is why being in a relationship with a highly sensitive person (HSP) or as a HSP (or both!) can pose challenges that are still unfamiliar and misunderstood. Let’s all work together to make sure this film is made possible by supporting it on Kickstarter

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Highly Sensitive Children Will Not Grow out of It

My son was three and a half years old when we discovered he was highly sensitive. We didn’t know much before that moment, and even after we’d read the books and articles and community discussions, we still didn’t feel like we knew enough. One thing we’d known all along however is this: Parenting a highly sensitive child is hard.

For those readers who don’t have highly sensitive children, I know what you’re thinking. Parenting is tough, period. And I can’t but agree with that argument. I also have a non highly sensitive child, and things can get rough with him. Like really, really rough. But the rough I get with my non highly sensitive son is typical parenting rough. His behavior is textbook infant / toddler / little boy / younger sibling. Yes, he is very unique in many ways, but those generalized rules you read in parenting books, they work with him most of the time. His older brother however has defied every rule and logical pattern since he was born, which, back then, basically meant no one could help us or show us the way. We were on  our own, desperately trying to figure things out.

Then we found out, thanks to Elaine Aron’s incredible book, that our son was simply a highly sensitive child, and things started to fall into place very quickly. We also learned that although we were in the dark for so long, we did know that we had to use an approach that was different to what everyone else seemed accustomed to. That’s when things started to get better, and little easier for all of us. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened.

Three years later, it almost feels like my son has transformed into someone else. Someone more confident, more assertive, more carefree; someone who is more sociable than I could ever be. Some days I forget the struggles we were faced with not long ago. I forget that we were lonely because we couldn’t be around anyone. I forget that our little boy drove us to our wits’ end over the most trivial of things.

Some days, my husband and I wonder, is it possible he’s no longer highly sensitive? Has he grown out of it?

The obvious answer to that question is no. One does not grow out of genetic programming. But it’s easy to forget that as we grow, many aspects of our behavior, thoughts and attitude change. Our experiences mold the way we think and express ourselves in different situations.

A lot of people sincerely ask me if sensitive children “grow out of it”, and I can see where they’re coming from, especially when all they know—or think they know—about “sensitivity” is that it makes people cry and overreact. To them, sensitivity is weakness, and that’s all. They look at your sensitive child, perhaps while he/she is being difficult, and think, “Oh, well I’ve never seen adults cover their ears and cry because the music is too loud, so this must be something kids grow out of.”

Highly Sensitive Children Will Not Grow out of It

As children grow, they change; they’ve had more time to learn about themselves as well as their surroundings. They become more mature and their behavior develops into something more socially acceptable. With the right support from parents, older kids become more familiar with the magic of self control and how to use it. But no one ever grows out of being highly sensitive. High sensitivity not a flaw, it’s a character trait you’r born with, and like most other character traits, it has both a beautiful aspect, and sometimes a less attractive aspect. It’s not something that dictates how we behave, but rather affects the way we feel and how we view the world.

Sensitivity is not weakness; it is the power to see more clearly. Sensitivity does not lead to tears, but rather to kindness and empathy. Sensitivity is not isolating; it helps us form stronger, more meaningful bonds with others. In my opinion, it is our only hope for a better future for humanity, a quality no one should ever grow out of.

It’s one thing when a friend, relative or parent claims our kids will grow out of their sensitivities. And it’s a whole other thing when a teacher, caregiver or doctor insists they will. Our highly sensitive kids need us to understand what they’re going through. They need us to love and support them, and take their struggles seriously, no matter how small they might seem. Assuming they’ll “grow out of it” is denying them what they need to grow into healthy and happy adults. If the people they depend on most  brush them off, assuming they’re just spoiled little brats, hungry for attention, leaving them to question themselves and face the world alone, they will grow up to have problems that years of therapy can’t fix.

So let’s get our facts straight before it’s too late. I am starting with myself.

Has anyone ever told you your child will grow out of his/her sensitivities? I’d love to hear your stories.

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Sensitive the Sequel

The Making of the Next Eye-Opening Film

Last September, something big happened!

Fifteen months after Dr. Elaine Aron announced her “big project”, she presented the world with a movie that would change the lives of manyUp until the release of Sensitive – The Untold Story, sensitives around the world were coming together, forming support groups and communities, letting each other know they weren’t alone, and trying, each in their own way, to shed light on what it means to be highly sensitive. There have been blogs, news articles, books and podcasts all of which have contributed to the increasing popularity of the topic, something many of us couldn’t even imagine might ever happen just a couple of years ago.

And then, on September 10, 2015 there was a movie! This character trait we’d been talking about for so long, while struggling to explain to others what it meant when we ourselves didn’t quite understand, was on the big screen!

Now, say what you will about the power of movies versus books, but having someone watch a documentary about a trait you desperately need them to understand is probably more doable than having them read a 350 page book. Presenting a friend, relative, teacher or caregiver with something that is so visually appealing will more likely guarantee you get your message through. Nothing will ever replace books as a source of information, but as the director of Sensitive – The Untold Story, Will Harper, said during his visit to Singapore, the movie will drive more people to read the book they need to read. The movie is a catalyst, helping to speed up the reaction we desperately want, leading to changes we desperately need.

When Diana Harper, the producer of the documentary, contacted me in October, asking me if I would be interested in being in the “next film”, I had to read the message a few times before it sank in. There were two aspects of this news that were thrilling to me: one, that there would be a sequel dedicated to highly sensitive children and two, that we were going to be in it.

Diana and Will Harper in Singapore; makers of Sensitive the Movie

Diana and Will Harper (producer and director of Sensitive – The Untold Story) in Singapore

I remember when that first movie was in the making, a significant number of people, including myself, were already asking for a movie that would focus on raising and caring for a highly sensitive child. After all, it’s with our children that it all begins. It is at that point that we can do things right and prevent problems they might otherwise have to live with for the rest of their lives. It is schools with impossible standards and teachers who are quick to judge that we need to convince. It is friends and family who point fingers and give unsolicited parenting advice we need to bring to our side. As adults, we can fend for ourselves; we’ve had time to live with and understand our sensitivities (to a certain extent, anyway). Our children however are still trying to figure out why they seem to stand out from the crowd, why they can’t seem to enjoy things all their friends do, and why no one else seems to find this world so overwhelming. It is our job as parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, to help them understand themselves better, and to try and make this world a more accepting place. And what better way to do that than with the help of a catalyst, a documentary featuring parents with real stories about their sensitive children, a tool that can convey a strong and important message in sixty minutes.

This is a good time for sensitives. It wasn’t long ago that my husband and I were completely alone and hopeless, wondering what we were dealing with and whether or not there was anyone else out there going through the same thing. And today, we are part of a nice big, supportive community of people in the same boat, in a world that is a little more understanding and little more open.

And after the release of the sequel, who knows where we might stand. But we can already feel the changes the first first film has led to. We can hear the message louder now. We know more highly sensitive people now. We hear more stories told candidly with less shame now. After having the pleasure and honor of getting to know Will and Diana Harper, the talented, ambitious and passionate filmmakers and beautiful people behind this change, I know that a project of such importance couldn’t possibly be in better hands.

Sensitive the Movie: A sequel in the making focusing on Highly Sensitive Children

Luca and Will: The beginning of a great project!

All I can say at this point, now that my wishes for a documentary about highly sensitive children are coming true, is that I have high hopes for the impact ‘Sensitive The Movie’ will have on the  world our children grow up in, the schools they go to, and the people in their lives.

Does the release of this next movie mean schools all around the world will finally acknowledge the fact that some kids just function better in different settings? Does it mean highly sensitive children will no longer be misunderstood and treated unfairly? Will this movie put a stop to unrealistic expectations from parents and relatives who push their kids to be like everyone else?

I can’t say for sure, but I certainly can’t wait to find out!

Sensitive The Sequel: The Making of the Next Eye-Opening Movie. This one will focus on raising and caring for Highly Sensitive Children (Elaine Aron)

Sensitive The Sequel: The Making of the Next Eye-Opening Film

The film makers are calling for submissions of stories from parents of highly sensitive children! Here is the announcement from their latest blog post on Sensitive The Movie:

We are currently on the search for more families with inspiring stories about raising a Highly Sensitive Child, the obstacles they had to deal with, and what they might have done (or wanted to do but couldn’t). If you have a story you’d like to share with us, and would like a chance to be featured in the film, please email it to us in 500 words or less at info@sensitivethemovie.com with the subject line MY STORY.

To read more about the sequel that is currently in the making, and about Will and Diana Harper’s visit to Singapore, click here

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Sensitive, The Untold Story – A beautiful documentary about a beautiful trait

Last night, my husband and I did something we don’t normally do.

Our nightly ritual normally consists of us putting the kids in bed, finishing up the housework, and then slumping down on the couch, mostly with a glass of red wine, to watch something that requires minimal brain activity and triggers little to no emotional response. Some might frown at the idea of two people shutting down that way when the day’s over. But at the end of an overwhelming day, that is how we unwind and empty our buckets.

Last night however, we decided to sit down with a glass of white (only because we’d run out of red) and watch the long-awaited and much anticipated documentary, ‘Sensitive, The Untold Story’. And it was beautiful, and moving, and deep, and I am still choked up thinking about it this morning.

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The different forms of creativity

The Different Forms of Creativitiy - The Highly Sensitive Child and Creativity

While reading about other Highly Sensitive Children in online forums and other blogs, I very often find moms and dads who talk about how creative their children are; how they love to draw and paint; how good they are with building blocks; how they can make incredible works of art out of almost nothing. And every time I read these wonderful stories of other kids, it made me observe mine all the more closely.

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Facing fear to enjoy the thrill of life

Dr. Elaine Aron recently wrote about her experience white water rafting in the Grand Canyon. In a beautiful post, she tells the world about how this experience was both incredible, and incredibly scary. She shares with us the fears she had to face on this trip, and not just the fear of the risks that come with white water rafting, but also the social fear of spending 13 days with a bunch of people who are nothing like you, who might make you feel like you don’t belong there, and who wear t-shirts that say things like “The best things in life are dangerous”. While reading about her experience facing her fear to enjoy the thrill of life, I got to thinking about my own fears.
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Even before Google, my mother knew

Being Highly Sensitive isn’t easy. Being Highly Sensitive and not knowing it is even less easy.

I didn’t always know what I was, or why I was the way I was. But there was a time when I wished I wasn’t.

I only discovered Dr. Elaine Aron and her work about a year ago. That was when it became clear to me why my son behaved the way he did. And through my discovery and my new understanding of my son, I realized that I was also a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), which explained why I felt the way I did growing up.
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Just last year…

It’s hard to believe that just last year I had no idea what a Highly Sensitive Child was. Sure, I knew my son was sensitive about some things; I assumed he might be shy, an introvert maybe. Sometimes I just thought he was being difficult, defiant, purposefully trying to test me and push me to my limits. I was told time and time again that he was a “difficult” child, and although it drove me crazy, I eventually started to believe it. Continue reading