by Fatima Malik
Kids with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) aren’t superhumans but their senses can be, and not in an ‘I can save the world’ type of way. It’s hypersensitivity. It’s more like ‘today is especially uncomfortable’ kind of way. Annoying sounds, bright lights, scratchy clothes, slimy foods with strong smells all frustrate kids with ADHD and that doesn’t help the day-to-day struggles either.
Some days are worse than others.
It’s all the feels all the times
Another sensitivity is to surrounding energies, where a child with ADHD may feel overwhelmed with a large-scale activity like a game or a school dance etc.
Sensitivity to touch
Clothing tags, jewelry, certain fabrics can all cause a child with ADHD irritability.
Our job as parents is to listen and pay attention to what the child is irritated by or complaining about and try to fix that seemingly small discomfort for them.
Background noises like screeching cars, dripping taps, utensils on plates, conversations at the other table at the restaurant, you name it they hear it. And it is distracting and a brain with ADHD is the definition of distracted.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), which, in my opinion, should have been called EDHD “Executive Dysfunction Hyper-focus Disorder” (but sadly, no one asked for my opinion) – can cause an array of sensitive issues in kids with ADHD, that they have to deal with their entire lives.
The better we prepare them for it, the better the chances they’ll avoid depression and anxiety that seems to be a certainty for an adult with ADHD.
Some perfumes, certain berries, flowers, even some baked goods or foods can cause kids with ADHD to have sensitivity to the smells. Deterring them from those foods, perfumes (people wearing those perfumes) and plants. These smells can make it hard for a child with such sensitivities to concentrate, or carry a normal conversation or ‘finish their food’.
As parents, the best thing we can do is listen and adjust accordingly so the child can be comfortable.
Flickering lights, halogen lights = instant migraine and headaches. Other visual sensitivities surround repetitive commotion, like leg wiggling, pen tapping/clicking, etc., which cause annoyance and distractions.
The physical symptoms like headaches should be enough to warrant a change in a child’s environment to ease visual sensitivities. No amount of ‘getting used to’ is going to work with a neurodivergent brain.
Too many people, stuff, and commotion can trigger a fight or flight response in a child with ADHD. With too many energies at play, these kids can get overwhelmed and tend to ‘absorb’ too much, causing too many emotions.
Overcrowded elevators, halls, classrooms, gyms etc., can all cause kids with ADHD to want to drop everything and run.
Again, listening to them and talking through these situations as they grow older would help kids with ADHD deal with these scenarios as they grow older and need to hold a meeting in a board room full of people, go shopping in a packed mall, etc.
Here are the 5 tips for dealing with hypersensitivity in kids with ADHD
- Listen: as mentioned above, the best thing you can do is try to make your child comfortable, because believe it or not, their level of ‘discomfort’ is more than a neurotypical child’s, and their comfort deserves to be cared for.
- Exploit the positives: Kids with ADHD are highly empathic. Honing these skills can help them choose careers that need these qualities, like people who work with animals, people who work with kids like teachers, and other professions like therapists, healers etc.
- Tackle each sensitivity separately: take your time, and instead of dealing with everything all at once (which can be overwhelming), take out time and plan around all the issues, for example, “today we’re going to cut all the tags off your clothes.” Involve the child in making their environment comfortable, so they can learn to be independent.
- Advocate for your child: Children complain to their parents. They hardly ever complain to other adults like teachers etc., so if your child needs better lighting at their school, so they’re not in pain, speak up. You’ll teach your kids to advocate for themselves as they grow older and need to ask their boss to change the lighting in the office or let them work from home.
- Holistic whole-body therapy: Other than cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), it has been observed that a holistic healing approach like mindfulness can help curb the level of sensitivity. Meditation, yoga etc., can help tune in and compose oneself better in overwhelming situations.
For more information about hypersensitivity, please contact one of our therapists at 1-866-503-7454. We have professionals around Canada, Montreal, Quebec.
Vancouver, British Columbia