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Interoception is known as the eighth sense. What is this ‘new’ word and how does it affect me or my child with autism?

Here’s a section from an article in Frontiers of Psychology:

“While interoception is a term that has gained and still is gaining popularity in the academic literature since the start of the millennium, consensus on its meaning is as yet not fully established. What is generally agreed upon by most current scholars is that interoception is the perception of the state of the body. The restrictive meaning holds that only sensations stemming from viscera are interoceptive. However, throughout this review interoception is used in the inclusive sense; as an umbrella term for the phenomenological experience of the body state, an experience which is ultimately a product of the central nervous system (CNS), regardless of what information the brain uses and does not use to construct this experience”  (Ceunen, Blaeyen, & Van Diest, p.1, 2016).

Sorry for all of the technical wording….let’s break this down. 

Interoception is what makes me Cara and what makes you, you. It’s all of our emotions, feelings, the way we feel our body, and organs. Basically, when you feel hungry or like you have to go to the bathroom, you ‘feel’ your body. You know when you feel sad, happy, and tired. Different body parts such as the heart allow us to ‘feel’ them. Have you ever felt your heart beating when you’re stressed? It lets you know it’s beating fast and that you need to take deep breaths and try and relax to slow it down safely. When you feel hungry, your stomach ‘tells’ you by making gurgle sounds. Some of our children with sensory processing difficulties don’t feel the messages their bodies and organs are telling them! Others feel their body’s messages way too much! Let’s think about it……..

  • Does your child have toileting trouble? Maybe he holds his stool too long or needs to poop into a pull-up long after he should have been toilet trained.
  • Does your child have difficulty telling when she’s full? She may also ‘stuff’ food into her mouth and not realize it.
  • Does your son struggle to feel emotions and feelings?
  • Does your child get injured often and not know it? OR  Avoid injury or seem afraid to move?

 Emotions are such an important part of social interaction. Many children with special needs struggle with emotional awareness. Interoception also involves understanding the ‘feelings’ that you’re having. So, if you feel angry, your face may feel hot and your heart may beat fast. What do you feel if you’re afraid? Help your children to identify what their bodies feel like when you see them having BIG emotions. Point out WHERE on their bodies they feel emotions.

Here’s an earlier blog post:  5 Facts About INTEROCEPTION.

There are so many ideas and things you can do at home and with your students (and yourself too) to learn about interoception. Body scans, adorable character friends, and fun activities are all in my new INTEROCEPTION book……..Sensing My World from the INSIDE OUT from Amazon.

Don’t miss my Organ Friends characters downloadables here.



References Ceunen, E., Vlaeyen, J. W., & Van Diest, I. (2016). On the Origin of Interoception. Frontiers in psychology7, 743. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00743

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