Have you ever heard of interoception? Interoception may be identified as our eighth sense. Firstly, interoception allows us to understand what is going on inside our body. Then, it helps us know what action we need to take in order to respond to what our body is telling us.
- When our bladder is full, we use the restroom.
- If our stomach growls or feels empty, we eat a meal or snack.
- When we feel cold, we wrap up in a blanket or put on a jacket.
Interoception activities for children are designed to help them learn to identify and recognize the importance of these internal cues. Therefore, it helps them to take action upon these cues. These activities can be utilized in the classroom, at home, or during therapy. These activities will help with self-regulation, flexible thinking, social skills, and problem-solving skills.
Children often struggle to make sense of what is occurring inside their body. They don’t recognize these important cues, or if they do, they do not know how to respond appropriately to them. When this disruption occurs, it can often result in frustration, excessive meltdowns, or other behavioral challenges that seem unprompted.
Does my child have interoception challenges?
Your child might struggle with interoception if they have a tendency to over or under respond to stimuli, such as:
- High pain threshold
- Unable to register if they are full OR hungry
- Can’t tell differences in temperatures (hot vs cold)
- Challenges with potty training
- Extreme reactions to sensations (hunger, pain, temperatures)
- Worrisome over small events
- Difficulty with focusing due to internal sensations
what activities help?
Interoceptive difficulties can, and often do, have a significant impact on daily functioning. It is important to keep the internal system balanced and these activities can help.
Regular body scans
Teaching your child (or yourself) how to perform regular body scans is a great first step in teaching how to recognize interoceptive input. Do a full body scan before eating or drinking, when outside in hot or cold weather, before using the bathroom, and before and/or after exercising. Then, ask them to identify the internal feelings that hunger, thirst, heat, cold, a full bladder or bowel, racing heartbeat, etc. create. At first your child will most likely need help in being able to identify these feelings. Engaging in this activity often will help them to do it independently.
This activity will require the professional help of an occupational therapist. An occupational therapist can help to involve interoception activities that will combine various tools, activities, and tactile input to help your child’s specific needs. By engaging in a sensory diet both at home and during therapy, your child will learn how to interpret cues their body is giving them in an appropriate manner. Learn more about sensory play ideas here.
yoga for interoception
Engaging in yoga geared towards kids is very beneficial for relaxation, mental health, focus on breath support, and heart rate. Children that struggle with being able to regulate emotions and reactions have challenges with those things. There are many free videos on YouTube showing poses. If you would like to avoid the use of a screen, Yoga Pretzels or Yogarilla are great resources.
Otherwise known as proprioceptive input, heavy work activities involve a “push” or “pull” of the body. Heavy work provides a very calming effect on the nervous system. Therefore, it helps children with self-regulation, organization, and body awareness. Often heavy work is included in a sensory diet, so a consultation with an occupational therapist may be necessary. For example:
- Carrying groceries
- Jumping and jumping jacks
- Wheelbarrow races
- Raking Leaves or shoveling snow
If you think that you OR your child may have challenges related to their interoceptive system, reach out to your physician to discuss.