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We work with so many children, and probably 20% of them do not feel pain

Let me tell you a story first.....

A perfect example is a child playing soccer - an adopted child with definite neurological issues - he ran across the field and fell, and his parents waved him off the field because they thought he was hurt. He told them he was fine and he wanted to finish the game. At the end of the game, he was still walking a little funny. They took him to a physician, and he had a compound fracture. He was playing soccer on a compound fracture.


A child, or anyone, should be able to perceive deep pain appropriately. If they have very high pain tolerance, they have a hard time stopping to seek attention - they brush it off. Pain perception is essential! It's there to let you know you're hurt, to tell you to pay attention, or to stop doing that. It's also there to give us a healthy fear, such as, "I shouldn't jump off the roof; that might hurt me. I shouldn't run out in the street; I could get hit by a car". Unfortunately, many of the kids I see are risk-takers and adrenaline junkies. They don't understand what would injure them compared to what is safe because they can't feel the difference. This lack of feeling can also be present in the people who bang their heads against the wall, pick at scabs, pull out hair, pluck out eyelashes, or cut. They do these things because they feel numb. We have worked with children who have scalded themselves in bathwater that was too hot.

A high tolerance to pain can impact our ability to have genuine, authentic empathy and compassion. These are the kids who hit others without thinking – since it doesn't hurt themselves to get hit, why does it hurt someone else? As a result, they lack an empathetic response to another's pain. If someone gets injured, this person may laugh or remain indifferent. They cannot feel what a person may be experiencing and therefore have no innate understanding of how to respond. More and more, we find ourselves having to teach children how to respond to another's pain when it should be natural and automatic. It comes naturally when you have appropriate pain perception.

Having a high tolerance to pain may also make it difficult to know when you are hungry or full, making feeding your children the biggest chore in a parent's life. Other sensations, like the urge to use the bathroom, don't report properly. This could also be the child who wets their bed at night because the internal sensations aren't waking them. But, again, these functions should be natural and automatic. They become automatic when you fill in the gaps in the brain.

"Behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first."

~Matthew L. Jacobson

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