Another important part of the process is to begin to observe within which environment a child is comfortable in and which one he/she is not. This dimension is where we can observe the spatial, temporal, and social experiences of a child. Schools, daycare, community centers, stores, malls and other social spaces (particularly new contexts) that children attend can be sensory traps (too much noise, visual stimulation, unusual heat, smells, ambient lighting, large amount of chemical trails from products, etc) for highly sensitive children, they can also be spaces where their empathy is overloaded by other peoples’ emotions. As with our own lives, it is important to evaluate the quality of space with the specific sensory triggers of a child in mind and to provide solutions for the distressing sensory input, such as headphones, caps, etc. It is also important to evaluate the environment for subtle toxic inputs such as air born pollution, or any sensory-based pollution (noise, visual, heat, etc) or people stress.
Finally, we should also pay attention to a child’s mediated experiences. Two kinds of mediated experiences influence how a child behaves. First, the mediation parents provide with the environment. From their birth, parents, particularly mothers, play an important role in soothing a child and mediating their experiences. Parents are sensory buffers who physically protect their children but also offer a model as to how to understand certain stimuli. Sometimes, a simple touch, or word, can help a child reposition him or herself within his or her body. This may explain why children with heightened senses are often reluctant to experience the world without their parents.
Second, we must consider the mediation technology offers to the child. Especially within urban settings, we live in a spatial man-made reality that our bodies and senses were not designed to live in. While each new generation is slowly adapting to these innovations, the current rate of change is accelerating. Our technologies and forms of communication are changing faster than our sensorial bodies can adapt. Today, these systems of communication are overloaded with technological energies and messages. Our most innate and intimate communication system has been colonized and to a large extend polluted.
All of the experiences of a child with a family, the world and technology provide the senses with multitudes of sensory inputs. This complex landscape of stimuli is coupled to a sensory processing and modulation system calibrated to the uniqueness of each individual. Thus the need to be a “sensory detective’ and to analyze a child’s behaviors and reaction to sensory the various sensory inputs we just explored but, in parallel to this exploration, to seek to understand the unique sensory system of our child. Let’s now have a look at what the senses actually are.
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