Sensory Processing Sensitivity (HSP) Research

Here’s a great video of a lecture that I just added to my YouTube HSP playlist.

HSP Marie-Lise Schläppy is interested in using sensitivity as a tool to help in the early identification of gifted children. That is, assuming there is a connection between giftedness and sensitivity, which is primarily addressed at the very end of the video, and not conclusively. Most of the lecture is devoted to tracing the evolution of research on sensitivity, both before and since Elaine Aron’s work, and it is fascinating. I found her description of Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration particularly intriguing. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, right? But it sure describes my HSP journey to a T. Many thanks to Schläppy for synopsizing psychological research in non-academic terms.

The video is titled Part I. Part I includes the entire lecture. Part II, which is 45 minutes long, is the Q&A that follows. It is not always easy to understand the questions, so I found it less interesting, but here’s the link if you want to check it out.

6 thoughts on “Sensory Processing Sensitivity (HSP) Research

  1. Interesting! I’ll have to watch this. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old who is clearly highly sensitive, as am I. More and more she is showing signs of being a gifted too in certain areas. So I will definitely have to add this to my watch list as well.

  2. I am curious what signs of giftedness and sensory sensitivity look like in a young child, if you are comfortable sharing, as I was well into middle age when I realized I was an HSP, and do not have any close relationships with young children.

    • Sure! As for the HSP signs. There are definitely some similarities that I see in my own behavior from when I was a little girl and my daughter’s behavior now. But there are also differences. What I noticed right away with my daughter was that she seemed to be able to relate on an empathic level that seemed more advanced than what would developmentally be deemed appropriate for her age, if that makes any sense? I am used to working with kids between ages 2.5 to 6 years old and most of them only start really showing empathy between 3 and 4 years old. By that I mean genuine empathy for the suffering of another kid or person. My child was genuinely upset and brought to tears when another child near her would cry or be upset when she was only a year-and-a-half-old. She is very sensitive to sound. She can get startled by loud sirens or sudden noises like a dog barking. Which at first I brushed off as being typical toddler behavior but as she got older it didn’t go away.. And on top of that it is also by noises that are familiar to her but just overwhelming for her senses while other children near her don’t seem to be affected by those same sounds. She will notice the tiniest airplane in the sky that nobody else will even notice. When there is even the faintest smell of something she will be the first one to point it out. She is bilingual so I don’t know if that also plays a part in the following but she can say her entire alphabet and has been able to for several months now. She just turned two and a half and she is extremely visual and good at noticing the tiniest differences. Which probably plays a part in her distinguishing different shapes of numbers and letters. So in that way I can see how being highly sensitive could attribute to a child being gifted. What I’ve noticed is that she has an extremely good hearing when it comes to music, she can hold the rhythm of a certain song when playing with her kid instrument set and has been able to since she was about 18 months old as well, something I didn’t even see in my three and four-year-olds when I was a full-time music teacher. So in those areas I think I would definitely say that highly sensitive children are gifted. At age 2 she could also point out different nuances in colors. Most kids that age will know their basic colors like green blue and red and yellow. What she could point out dark purple and light purple and orange and dark green and she would actually come up and tell me that blue and yellow makes green and stuff like that. I’m not trying to say that my kid is some kind of genius. Far from. She’s good at certain things because of her sensitivity but I’m sure there will be other things that will be more challenging. These are just my observations and because I have worked in the educational field I noticed how she was noticing all these things that most of the children I had worked with in the past did not notice yet.

      • Thanks for sharing – this is very interesting. Among other things, it has caused me to consider whether my brother (who was also empathetic as you describe from a very young age) might have been sensitive.

      • It is genetically determined so if you are, there is a good chance that one of your siblings is too. I’ve read stories of people with 4 kids and 2 of the 4 were highly sensitive and 2 weren’t. Both parents were HSP. So it’s interesting that 2 kids actually weren’t highly sensitive. But I guess that’s like 2 brown eyed people having a blue eyed kid. Rare, but it happens.

      • Not sure where I got it. My father was decidedly NOT an HSP – he was completely devoid of empathy as far as I ever saw (he was never diagnosed, but I believe he had ADHD). My mother had some traits that might be SPS, but was low on insight and high on narcissism, so that’s all a little mystifying. But I know genetics can get complex where recessive traits are concerned.

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