What is Interoception and How Do We Develop this Sense?
By: Sarah Evanko, OTR/L
When it comes to the senses, you are probably aware of five. These senses include, sight, touch, smell, taste, and auditory. In addition to these five, there are three more senses; including the proprioceptive, vestibular, and the interoceptive sense. While you might be familiar with the proprioceptive and vestibular sense from different services your child might receive, the interoceptive sense can be overlooked as it can be harder to assess.
What is the interoceptive sense (interoception)?
Interoception is the ability to recognize what the body is feeling. For example, after a child has worked hard making mud pies on the playground, they will notice their hands are messy. After eating a small breakfast, we know that a growling stomach at lunch means we are hungry. That’s it, that’s interoception! However, some children struggle to recognize when their hands are dirty or when their stomach is grumbling. This can be due to several factors including, having a lack of awareness of signals from the body, or the inability to label these signals. The skill of noticing and identifying bodily sensations is often taken for granted. Some kids will need this skill to be taught or modeled before they can be independent. Much like learning to use scissors or tying shoes. Though some children with diagnoses such as anxiety, autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, chronic pain syndrome or disordered eating, could benefit from skilled intervention to develop this sense, everyone could learn to read their body better. Becoming more in tune with our body increases our ability to express our needs to others.
Ways to work on this sense at home
- During the day, take a moment to pause during an activity. Model this skill by describing how your body is feeling in that moment. Help your child describe how their body is feeling. For example, when outside on a hot summer day you could say, “I am feeling warm, see? I have sweat on my forehead”
- Encourage kids to describe sensation using their own words. This builds independence and language skills that can help your child better express what they are feeling.