Monday, July 13, 2009

I got a great story from a mom who is also an occupational therapist [my profession], and she agreed to let me share her story as an illustration of the impact of sensory processing on everyday life.

I read with interest the article on "Sensory Sensitivities of Gifted Children" (Gere, Capps, Mitchell & Grubbs, 2009) and your response (Dunn, 2009).

It has been interesting to see students who are gifted in music and also oversensitive to auditory input. Put them in aconcert in high school (obviously with training) and they are wonderful. My own daughter hated sudden, loud noises, (ie. sirens and fireworks) to the point where we avoided parades and fourth of July celebrations. However, she is gifted musically, and at the age of 17 months sang "Happy Birthday" to a friend, with correct pitch and words. She is currently studying classical voice. I would love to hear about the positives of people who are considered "non-typical". I think that too often children are put in the non-typical box and we forget that that unusual ways of perceiving, thinking and problem solving gives birth to new ideas.

What this person is expressing is that it is our uniqueness, our quirkiness that gives rise to innovation and creativity. We are on the wrong track if we think we have to 'normalize' these aspects of people's traits because we risk losing other very helpful aspects of their behavior as well. In the article referenced above, the authors cited the gifted literature, which hypothesizes that children’s sensory sensitivities might contribute to both their superior problem solving abilities and their challenges with social interactions.

It is not surprising that children who are great musically could also be sensitive to sounds. Perhaps that is how they notice the little nuances that others miss... we cannot indict one manifestation of their trait [i.e., their sensitivity], while hailing another aspect of it [i.e., their intense musical talent]. We have to find ways for the musical talent to flourish because of the sensitivity to details, while diminishing the impact of that same auditory sensitivity on other aspects of everyday life. We need to consider the risk of diminishing the sensitivity on the superior abilities.

1 comment:

Shar said...

Those are pretty neat insights. It reminds me of an article I've recently read on creativity and mental illness--it's basically the idea that these characteristics/genetic types exist for a reason--and what typically makes a difference is the level of cognitive control.

The article is over here:

So in essence: "We won't have geniuses if there aren't those who have mental illness." :-) Thanks for sharing your insights.