What is a “Super Sensor” and How Can DBT-C Help?
By Jeanette Lorandini
When you hear the term “super sensor” in relation to children, you might think of a child who has sensory issues. However, that’s not necessarily the case.
While some super sensors might have some sensory sensitivities, there’s more to it. Emotional sensitivity plays a large role in a super sensors life, too. Often, this affects behavior and might lead to a child being mislabeled as lazy or dramatic.
It’s important to recognize the traits of a super sensor and work with them rather than against them to set them up for success in their everyday life.
Traits of a Super Sensor
Impulsive Behavior and Attention Issues
Many super sensors display impulsive behavior. They do things without thinking and struggle to fully process an urge before acting on it. In addition to this, they struggle with delayed gratification. They may want instant gratification instead and feel uncomfortable waiting for it.
Super sensors also struggle with concentration and have a rapidly shifting attention span. As a result, they’re often easily bored. The constant need to be doing something fun and interesting stems from a chemical need for excitement and newness.
Often, super sensors may be diagnosed with ADHD, as impulsive behavior and attention difficulties are hallmark signs of ADHD.
A Surplus of Energy and Hyper-Reactivity
Super sensors also may be classified as hyperactive. They’re highly excitable and may move around a lot or speak quickly and loudly. For many, this is a way to spend emotional energy.
Along with hyperactivity is hyper-reactivity. This means they may be prone to anxiety attacks, physical outbursts, and in serious cases, self harm. This stems from an inability to communicate emotions.
They may also struggle with interpersonal relationships. Because they struggle to communicate emotions, they may get into arguments or have trouble connecting with and getting along with peers.
They Dislike Change and Think in Black and White
Another trait of super sensors is that they dislike change. These children prefer structure, as it provides security and stability. Has your child ever seemed to overreact to slight changes in plans? They may struggle to prepare emotionally and may fear they cannot cope with the change.
Along with this, they tend to think in “black and white”. This means they may be prone to catastrophe (fearing the worst will happen). When faced with emotional arousal, their thoughts become inflexible. This appears as “I love you” vs. “I hate you”. Or perhaps they may say things like, “You never let me,” or “This always happens!”
Difficulty Maintaining Hygiene and Avoiding Effort
Super sensors may struggle with personal hygiene. They might be inconsistent with brushing their teeth or taking a shower. To them, these tasks as boring and not stimulating, which doesn’t agree with their need for constant newness and excitement.
They may also struggle with effort. While it’s easy to simply write this off as laziness, that’s not the case. Rather, emotions for super sensors can be draining and require a lot of energy.
For instance, if they refuse to clean their room, think back on the day. Were there a lot of emotions involved for them? If so, they may feel emotionally drained, so cleaning their room becomes overwhelming.
How DBT-C Can Help Super Sensors
Although there are struggles that come with a child being a super sensor, there are many gifts and strengths. It’s simply a matter of building the skills to utilize them. Understandably, it can be difficult for parents to work with a super sensor without helpful background knowledge and the tools to help them.
DBT-C helps children make positive changes in their emotions, actions, and thoughts. In DBT-C, we help parents focus on emotional validation and effective discipline for their super sensors. Once parents get the hang of these basics, they can help their super sensor learn skills to better tolerate dilemmas, everyday emotions, emotional reactions, and behaviors. Because they help you and your child navigate frequent conflicts or upset, DBT skills for kids allow you to really treasure more moments spent together.
If you’re struggling with helping your super sensor child manage their everyday experience, reach out today so we can give you the tools to set them up for success.
Click here for more information on DBT for Children.
Suffolk DBT proudly provides quality dialectical behavior therapy, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, at their offices in Manhattan and Long Island, New York and online. Their experienced therapists specialize in serving teens, children, adults, and college students struggling with depression, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, and self-harm. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) skills and treatment can help you or your kids to manage emotions and work through life’s challenges.