The described model of support for highly sensitive children was developed in an international team led by Dr. Monika Baryła-Matejczuk and published along with the full description in:
Baryła-Matejczuk, M. (2019). A MODEL OF SUPPORT FOR HIGHLY SENSITIVE CHILDREN OF PRESCHOOL AND EARLY SCHOOL AGE. In A. I. Arcos-Romero & A. Álvarez-Muelas (Eds.), AVANCES EN PSICOLOGÍA CLÍNICA (pp. 272–280). Granada: Asociación Española de Psicología Conductual (AEPC), Universidad de Granada.
Baryła-Matejczuk, M., Artymiak, M., Ferres-Cascales, R., & Betancort, M. (2020). The Highly Sensitive Child as a challenge for education – introduction to the concept. ISSUES IN EARLY EDUCATION, 1(48), 51–62.
The identification of the child’s potential
First of all, we need to identify whether we are dealing with a highly sensitive child or not. The initial assessment of temperamental features is often based on the analysis of behaviours, which in the case of highly sensitive children (see Raport SR) may be confused, in their clinical assessment, with disorders such as hyperactivity or sensory integration disorder. The application of a reliable tool for the assessment of high sensitivity, which is specifically tailored to requirements (a questionnaire containing questions about the child) should be the first stage of the process of support for highly sensitive children and their families as well as their close environment. Therefore, the first move that is oriented towards supporting highly sensitive children is to develop a tool (questionnaire) that both parents and teachers may find useful.
Education and support for parents and caregivers
In studies regarding children’s development (Hornowska, Brzezińska, Appelt, Kaliszewska-Czeremska, 2014, pp. 9) ‘the role of the development space is being more frequently considered, focusing on the importance of stimulation, the source of which is the immediate surroundings of the child, especially the family home as the first physical and social environment with which the child is in contact with’. The younger the child, the more important to their development is environmental stimulation, and thus the quality of the environment (Pluess and Bielsky, 2013; Pluess et al., 2017).
The adequate support of highly sensitive children is especially important in the light of research to date. E. N. Aron, A. Aron and K. M. Davies (2005) pointed out that, in the conditions of being raised in an inappropriate family environment, highly sensitive people are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. In turn, Miriam Liss and others (2005) proved that low and inadequate levels of parental care of highly sensitive children are directly linked to later incidences of depression (after: Liss, Mailloux, Erchull 2008). First of all, attention should be paid to the provision of adequate conditions for the child’s development. According to the humanistic model, raising a child is the process of supporting development aimed at achieving full maturity in the physical, psychological, social and spiritual spheres (Gaś, 1999, 2006). Such parent-child relationships require the involvement of both, the parent and the child.
A forum for exchanging experiences
The exchange of parental experiences, as well as sharing successes and difficulties are a source of natural support. At present, direct contact is often replaced by a substitute – an online relationship, and people learn about social behaviour patterns and the universality of specific problems from the media. A compromise solution may be the organization of an online space/platform, where parents would be able to gain trusted knowledge about high sensitivity and share their own experiences. Knowledge and the ability to support highly sensitive people are also important for other adults (for teachers, form teachers, school counsellors), who are important in the lives of children. An understanding of children’s temperamental sensitivity and the skills to support it could provide a substantial contribution to the school’s preventive activities, especially in the field of universal prophylaxis/prevention.
Conscientious work with highly sensitive children
Accordingly, planning support for highly sensitive children is not about modifying their personality traits. The conscientious work does not involve interference with a trait, an assumption of high sensitivity being a disadvantage or a problem that needs to be dealt with, rather, it focuses on providing conditions in which highly sensitive children may have equal opportunities to develop their potential. When training adult carers in providing an adequate level of support for highly sensitive children, attention should be paid to the developmental tasks of preschool and early school age. We should provide support ‘in something’. According to the assumptions of the project, developmental tasks that are appropriate for the child’s age should be supported.
N. Aron, in the publication The Highly Sensitive Child (2015), mentions four main pillars of work with the highly sensitive child. It may be assumed that the training of parents and teachers in the following areas:
- work on the development of adequate self-esteem for the child (strengthening Self-esteem)
- reduce the child’s feeling of shame (shame reduction)
- discipline the child wisely (wise Discipline)
- encourage the child to talk about their own sensitivity (Knowledge How to discuss Sensitivity)
may provide support in the provision of adequate conditions for the child’s development.