What are Sensory Issues?
Sensory Issues and Affect Regulation
Given that children who are intellectually gifted are born with very intense limbic systems, it makes sense that their limbic systems might get overwhelmed easily and that highly gifted children may have challenges processing intense stimulation. They may struggle with processing the stimulation coming their way and with being able to modulate the intensity of their emotional responses to the stimulation. Because their limbic systems are so intense, gifted children may actually struggle more with stimulating environments (such as loud birthday parties) than other children of the same age. These struggles processing intense sensory information may occur for a longer span of development as well, because it takes more time for the higher level executive functioning part of the brain to develop the skills to help manage the limbic system- the executive functioning areas of the brain in highly gifted kids are being given a very difficult task. And yet people often expect gifted children to handle these situations more maturely, because of their advanced intellectual abilities in other areas.
It’s important to remember that this is a developmental process and that sensory processing challenges for gifted children do often becomes less of an issue as a child gets older. In her work on asynchronous development, Linda Silverman has talked about gifted children being “out of sync” between the ages of about 3 years and 9 years of age. In terms of sensory issues, it makes some sense if we step back and consider that for an intellectually gifted child with a very intense limbic system it might actually take longer for the executive functioning areas of the brain to mature and develop enough to be able to help the very intense limbic system cope. Additionally, between the ages of 3 and 9 years of age our society expects children to be able to handle intense stimulation, in classrooms, for instance. So the gap between what children may be able to tolerate and what is expected of them can be quite large during those years. By about age 9 years, the higher level cognitive functioning is up and running to a larger degree and the gifted child can often handle environmental stress more easily. And this ability to handle environmental stress often continues to increase as the child matures.
Sensory Processing and Affect Regulation in Everyday Life
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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