Noise and Highly Sensitive Children

As a child I used to get really overwhelmed in loud places (still do now) barely being able to hear, see, focus on or feel anything. My sweet, little nervous system so overloaded with external stimulus that I (my thoughts and my brain) shut down these functions and I appeared detached, spacey, disconnected and like I wasn’t concentrating…

At school I would got many comments in my school reports like:

“Kathryn would achieve so much more if she could focus on her work…”


“Kathryn can get distracted easily, she does well not to join in with the distracted kids, but if she could just focus more she could……”

My school life was spent desperately trying to A) be the perfect student  B) trying to focus on the teacher and C) ignore the distractions!

I so desperately wanted to BE GOOD and do well at school (Sensitive children are often perfectionists) but the chit chat, the noisy chairs, the rustle of the child’s hand in the pencil crayon stash or the rustle of paper across the room, would consume my sensitive hearing; distracting me from focusing on the teacher or my work.

I also had to ignore the colourful displays on the walls and the P.E. lessons going on outside on the field, the birds flying past the window, the cloud formations in he sky, the lady walking past our school with her shopping – you name it, I saw it or heard it.

On top of that, I also FELT. Sensitive to the feelings of others too – I could feel the teachers despair or stress, not to mention the jumbled up energies of my peers…

Often all of this was too much for me, so I would “detach” and go inside (my daughter calls it her quiet place inside) appearing unfocused on my work, or distracted, or just “checked out” because it was easier to check out than try to deal with all the sensory information I was processing (sensitive people have more sensitive nervous systems than non-sensitives).

I was, in essence “the good girl”; I really did try my best to hide my distracted nature and focus on my studies, and I was able to do well; this trait didn’t necessarily hold me back academically – thankfully.

However, increasingly I have started to notice in schools and started to wonder myself – how many other Sensitive children find the distractions so overwhelming and so distracting and don’t necessarily have the “good girl/boy” conditioning that I did?

How do they get on in life? In school? In a job?

As a grown up sensitive person, I still struggle with these environments. One of the reasons I love teaching yoga so much is because my students can’t sit clicking pens or tapping the tables! This stuff used to really get to me when I taught in secondary school.

Social situation become overwhelming easily, unless alcohol is involved (then I just get loud, brash and “insensitive”), I find it hard to talk in a noisy restaurant, can’t hold a one on one conversation if the TV is on in the background and certainly can’t chat to my best friend as we walk around the shopping centre.

I remember once I had an informal interview in a noisy cafe – it was SO tough!!!

But my withdrawn and unfocussed, detached nature in these situations in MY experience, how do others react?

How hard is it for other children and what’s their experience? My guess is not all children handle this overwhelm as I did.

I observed a child today cry her way around cricket practice – clearly overwhelmed, but encouraged to stay and join in, despite the constant tears.

I’d love to hear your child’s experience to noise – how do they handle it? Do you have any tips to help other parents?

Share your comments below, I look forward to connecting.

Kathy xoxox

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