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There is so much self-help literature currently available that it cannot be easy for the lay person to know what to buy let alone trust. The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child is a useful compendium because it deals with virtually all aspects of introversion in children encapsulated in one handy volume. The author is a marriage and family therapist and an acknowledged expert on introversion and how it impacts on the family. Her book The Introvert Advantage specialized in looking at the positive aspects of introversion and this present book continues with the same viewpoint but, as the title suggests, applies it most particularly to children.
This reviewer feels that the key section of this book is the one which most clarifies the nature of introversion. The author goes to great lengths to say what introversion is and is not and lays several myths to rest along the way. She stresses that introversion is actually about brain physiology. Using research undertaken at Harvard and elsewhere, she describes the evidence to support the idea that certain people tend to have a stronger dopamine trigger operating on the sympathetic nervous system while others tend to have a stronger acetylcholine trigger operating on the parasympathetic nervous system. She argues that if a person's energy management system presets towards the dopamine/sympathetic end of the spectrum we would call that person extraverted while if someone's energy management system presets towards the acetylcholine/parasympathetic end we would recognize that person as introverted. Obviously we all have both types but a substantial shift away from the mid point along the spectrum towards one end or the other is what enables us to talk about someone being more introverted or more extraverted.
This position enables her to distinguish introversion from shyness because the latter is not about energy levels. Extraverts can be shy because, she argues, shyness is basically about how people process information in social situations. The author is also keen to lay to rest the confusions between, on the one hand, introversion and, on the other, conditions such as sensory integration dysfunction, high sensitivity, the ADD to ADHD spectrum, the autism spectrum and particularly Asperger's syndrome, social anxiety and the range of other anxiety disorders.
Having clarified what introversion is and is not, the author proceeds to deal with the upbringing of introverted children under three basic headings -- how to help the introverted child develop as a person emotionally, creatively, etc.; how to best manage family relationships especially where other family members may have a very different temperament from that of the introverted child; and how to help an introverted child flourish at school, in the classroom, on the playing field, when developing friendships and coping with conflicts and bullying, etc. This is all very down to earth and practical advice which any parent of an introverted child would be very glad to have.
The book has an appendix specifically aimed at distinguishing introversion from various other syndromes and disorders, a good but not overwhelming reading list under useful headings, and an efficient index. It is well written and succeeds admirably in its ambition to be a guide to parents of introverted children. I highly recommend this book not only to such parents but also to teachers so that we can make schools more "innie" friendly.
© 2007 Kevin M. Purday
Kevin M. Purday, Principal of the Shanghai Rego International School
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