This book represents a continuation of my research on digital natives but now focused on sensory health. It is based on the premise that we live in a new media society. New media represents practices where individuals appropriate standards technologies to their own multiple social/cultural domains. New media began as an approach to media making based on problem solving, tinkering, experimenting and thinking on the margins of the norms, which has now infiltrated many of out social and cultural processes. I hypothesize that we are entering new media society where the public uses social media and soon 3d printing to learn and experiment with alternate forms of social and cultural lives. A second hypothesis is that these changes affect all areas of life, and that we are entering an era of DIY health and health hacking. Both the body and health are now new media fields of enquiry and redefinition and slowly, sensory health is becoming a new media.
The book is structured around three distinct parts.
Part 1: 21st century new media society: The senses as new media
The first part of this book, retraces the historical and conceptual framework of sensorial health in our society. In this section we retrace the body, space and nature have been colonized via many of our cultural meta-narratives. This in order to understand and outline some of the fundamental problems facing people with heightened sensory perception and why their capacities have been understood as illnesses instead of strengths. As seen in the field of disabilities, via informal networks the dominant culture of disembodied selves is being redefined by the public. Activists communities are reclaiming their uniqueness and beginning to distribute messages of hope by reversing the negative into positive approaches to their needs. Children are growing up with these new narratives as well as with direct access to scientifical research that can be used to redefine health.
Chapter 1: A Sensorial Being Struggling in a Disembodied Culture
In this chapter, we explore how the senses have been eliminated from western thoughts and culture. Retracing where within our culture the separation between man and nature began. We then examine how the disembodied culture of the last few millennia is being redefined by the public within informal networks. We are entering a new media society within which the public is redefining our notion of selves and identities.
Chapter 2: The Aesthetics of Space
In this second chapter, we explore how from a sensorial perspective, the body and our sense of self is grounded in and not separate from the environment and space. This is why the impact of western cultural colonization on the Body and space has been an oppressive force on HSP. A disembodied self and the elimination of the senses and space from our thinking has rendered the sensory gifted mute and their way of “being” marginalized.
Chapter 3: Sensory abilities are not disabilities
In this chapter we focus on how our disembodied thinking is turning sensory giftedness into a disability, understanding heightened sensory processing as a dysfunction. This is having dramatic consequences on our children who often get diagnosed with pathologies simply because the medical and educational professions do not recognize that children behavioral issues can signal overloaded or under-loaded senses.
Part 2: Sensorial Health
The second part focuses on environmental, social and cultural issues that influence our senses and also explores alternate health models that include the senses in their definition of health. This section ends with a redefinition of health that includes space and social life as a fundamental element to well-being.
Chapter 4 Making Sense of a Toxic World
When we consider the senses as central to health, it becomes evident that our environment can be toxic, in Chapter 4 we examine what contributes to toxicity of the senses.
Chapter 5: In Search of a Sensory Health Model
Given how little knowledge there seems to be about sensorial health in the western world, I began to explore whether sensory based health models exist in other cultures, subject of chapter 5.
Chapter 6: A HSC Sensory Health Framework
Indeed, in Asia, Africa and aboriginal north America all include in their cultures a DIY, location and individual based health model much ore apt to understand and foster difference instead of oppressing it. Core to these models is self-awareness, self-regulation and the inclusion of social, economic and emotional as well as sensory and physical aspects of the person as vital to their well-being. Chapter 6 explores how these models can be helpful to a health model that includes sensory processing, thus the need to develop sensory literacy in children and adults.
Chapter 7: Highly Sensitive People Health: A spiral of communication systems
Chapter 7 explores how within DIY informal networks people are finding solutions to sensory issues often by reintroducing traditional health methods to their lives and redefining sensory health.
The prevailing idea of the last few centuries has been to let the outside world shape who we are. The rise in ADHD, autism and other child related mental “disorders” represents a dangerous testimony to the long-term damage this logic is having on some of our children who are helpless in front of this toxic world we have participated in perpetuating.
Another approach, which is growing in popularity, is to help children grow from the inside out. To let their being slowly adjust to the world they are in, accepting that their development will take time and does not necessarily follow a standard path. This means redefining many ways of looking at parenting, care giving, social life and schooling to insure long-term self-esteem and self-reliance.
Part 3: alternative sensory diet
This section examines ways to help children cope with sensory over or under-load by using not just traditional health solutions but also incorporating 21st century technologies.
Sensory over or underload produces behaviors that seen out of synch with the rest of society. These children are simply coping with extra or painful energy generated by their senses that must exist their bodies. This energy is the life force that Rousseau considered need to be tamed. Yet, in this context, intense emotions and reactions are an important part of deeper understanding of our humanity. They are the source of extraordinary performances and insights, those of our most brilliant artists, inventors, thinkers and spiritual leaders.
While westerners look upon intensity and its behaviors as impolite and a sign of disrespect, denying it just pushes inward this natural intensity and eventually it will damage a person. The key is not to eliminate this intensity but to learn to work with it. To be aware of what we are trying to say to ourselves through our intense reactions. The intensity is a message that we cannot ignore what is going on and also a sign of strength and powerful energy.
Chapter 8: 21st Century Sensory Based Life Diet
Like many other parents, over the years I have come up with my own protocols to deal with my children’s sensory health crisis. Children need to learn their own symptoms and know what they mean as doctors always assume that something other then what affects them is happening. There are many short-term strategies to deal with immediate crisis. But once the crisis is over, it is important to long-term sustainable strategies and introduce slow easy changes that can be incorporated gently in our routines. This is a slow process, including a lot of experimentation, a willingness to observe and listen to children and ourselves, and an understanding for each child’s needs.
1- Chapter 9: A Media Diet for the Senses
This chapter examines the role media can play in children’s health culture and literacies. Media are now essential components of modern lives, yet many researchers and the public tend to focus on the negative impact they have on children and understand media as something children should be steered away from. And indeed, in many instances that should be the case.
Yet, a growing number of health researchers are discussing how gaming and other media based therapies can help with physical activity, developing healthier behaviors and coping with chronic illnesses. This chapter questions whether gaming and other digital media activities can have positive therapeutic potential for sensory processing issues.
Part 4: sensory literacy
The final section of the book, explores how heightened sensory processing abilities translate into an alternate form of intelligence that a different approach to learning.
Chapter 10: HSP A Broad Attention Learner in a Narrow Focused World
This chapter explores how heighted sensory processing represents a unique form of intelligence, sometime referred to as ecological thinking, a form of holistic and environmental intelligence that corresponds to a different approach to life and learning based on response to very intense sensory and emotional reaction to space.
Chapter 11: HSC and informal Learning
In this chapter, we examine why DIY sensory literacy must be developed via informal learning. Many writers have explored how success doesn’t come from tutors and well-rounded extra-curriculars, but starts at home. Feeling connected is the foundation of a child’s intelligence.
Given how unique each individuals’ heightened sensory processing abilities are, fostering these gifts requires a different approach to learning. It is not something that can be taught in school and often, the act of evaluation will eliminate in children the desire for self-determination.
As we will see, self-regulation and self-awareness are essential to developing sensory well being, and as such, it is important to develop a DIY informal forms of sensory pedagogy that fosters in children the construction of strategies towards self-determination and autonomous, self-regulated health Practices.
Conclusion: Sensory health literacy informal framework
To conclude, we will examine how virtual informal learning can be used to create informal DIY sensory health community centers.
[i] Maté, Gabor (2003). When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress. Toronto: Vintage Canada.