Highly Sensitive Children

October 28, 2020
Highly Sensitive Children

15-20% of all children have a temperament that makes them more reactive to their environment.  While this is not a diagnosis, these children have a different way of experiencing the world. It can be easier to navigate an office visit if you can recognize which kids need more attention to sensory input and a gentler, less rushed visit.

Here are a few tips on what you can do:

1) Take Stock – Pay attention to your sensory surroundings. What does the light look like? Is the office noisy? Are you on eye level?

2) Demystify – Explain what you are going to do beforehand and how you will be using your instruments. This will help you move more slowly.

3) Honor Emotions – Make sure to label and validate a child’s emotions. Reassure them that you are there to keep them safe and healthy.

4) Warm up! Move slowly, warm the stethoscope before you use it, and, if possible, allow the child to explore the instruments you will be using.  For older children, ask them what would make them feel most comfortable. For younger children, try asking a parent.

5) Acknowledge  If there is sensory input that you cannot change, acknowledge that it is there. For example, you can say, “I know that the room is cold. Let’s make sure you are healthy and strong first, and then you can put your jacket back on!” Or, if you hear a baby crying, you can let them know that that is how babies communicate.

6) Don’t personalize or misinterpret your patient’s behavior. They may only be reacting to sensory overload.