What? I hear you cry! I got taught that there are five senses in school and you’re telling me there are three more. And this unpronounceable one is the eighth (FYI the other two are proprioception and vestibular). Interoception is the sense of feeling things… as in cold, hot, hungry, thirsty etc and is pronounced in-ter-oh-sep-chun.
For more information on what Interoception is see this link to the Star Institute in the USA
Our company is offering interoception awareness classes in a number of schools and to individual families, and already we are seeing lots of great work from all the children and young people.
In three of our schools we are working closely with teachers on interoception awareness through The Interoception Curriculum™ lessons, and using adaptations to support poor interoceptive awareness. Social stories, memorised rules, sensory diets are all being linked back to mindful co- and self-regulation. We have carried out an assessment of interoceptive awareness pre curriculum, and are very hopeful that interoceptive awareness will be improved through embedding this curriculum and language in these schools.
Lessons planned and completed have proved to be fun, engaging and allow the group to notice their body signals, and how their peers notice things differently. We had some great words for how hands can feel – including hot, cold, boiling, sweaty, warm, freezing, slippery, wiggly, shaky and jiggly. And the plan is to build on these body signals so that we can link them to emotions- when my hands feel jiggly it could be because I am excited- giving cues to actions the child needs to take. So for one child it may be they need to squeeze a stress ball, or clap their hands, or flap and for another it may be that jiggly hands may be a cue that they are hungry, or tired, or need the bathroom. This is what the Interoception Curriculum™ offers, a means to communicate how we feel individually. And it makes us, teachers, parents and therapists, take a step back from saying ‘your hands are wiggly are you excited?’ to ‘how do your hands feel, what does that mean for you?’. Check your Body, Check your Emotion.
This is such a big deal for many of the children we work with, those who find it difficult to read and understand their body signals. So for example if, like me, loud noises make them jump and causes them to react (in my case I’ll be a bit ratty for a little while) having an awareness of how their body feels when it’s ratty can help them find tools to alleviate their rattiness and self regulate.
In case you’re wondering a hug from the person who made me jump, or some other appropriate person always helps. And in case you are also wondering rattiness is how I explain that emotion in between frustration at yourself (for reacting) and annoyance at someone else (for making me jump).