Crisis Management and the Highly Sensitive Child

School emergency drills, though necessary, can cause distress in for some children. In this day and age, we’re noticing more children’s issues and needs that have been pushed aside in years past. Something as important as a lockdown can send a child into a worried state that may manifest itself in negative ways for a long time.

Both children and adults can be identified as Highly Sensitive. According to Sandra Clifton, M.ED., BCET, these individuals sense and process incoming information more acutely, which results in profound reactions. These may include stress, nightmares, and anxiety, to name a few. It is estimated that between 12 and 15 percent of any given population is Highly Sensitive. The symptoms can be overlooked or misdiagnosed.

Many sufferers are designated incorrectly as having ADHD or other similar issues. Generally, these people are high-functioning, creative, and empathetic to their surroundings. Things such as noises, smells, and all other actions are picked up by our senses and are more powerful to them. Some sufferers cannot regulate this information well, and it is the source of anxiety and distress.

To address Highly Sensitive individuals, it is important to include counselors, teachers, students, and parents to identify and help students prior to and after a drill or real incident. Both the subject matter and the tone of the drill must be planned for with these individuals in mind. Without these safeguards considered and implemented, harmful effects can occur. After a drill or real emergency event, special attention must be paid to these children.

Consideration should be in the forefront of drill preparation and post-crisis efforts. Education and teamwork with good communication must exist to ensure the best outcome for the students while protecting them from stressful situations like drills and real world emergencies. A great resource and partner to help design a program is with a school counselor or general psychologist versed in this issue. Without proper planning, as we practice for or recover from intense situation, we may be causing more harm than good.


Will Brown

Regional Response Manager