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What is happening in my body?

INTEROCEPTION:

What it is and how to support interoceptive awareness



Interoception is being aware of and understanding the sensations and feelings in our body.

For example, recognising our body's signals that we are: hot or cold, hungry or full, need to go to the toilet, feel unwell or pain.



POOR INTEROCEPTION

Poor interoceptive awareness, or not being able to clearly notice the body's signals, can occur for a variety of reasons. It is often observed in neurodivergent individuals, individuals with anxiety, or those affected by trauma. For those with poor interoception, body signals may be unclear as the signals are too big, too small or distorted.


IMPACT OF POOR INTEROCEPTION

Interoception is an important sense for self-regulation. By noticing our body's sensations, we are able to make meaning of them and connect them to an emotion (e.g, hungry, needing to go to the toilet, anxious). Without making this meaning of the sensations in our body, we may be unable to regulate them by taking action in a timely or appropriate manner (e.g. eating, toileting, seeking comfort).


Poor interoceptive awareness can impact many other everyday life and social skills, such as identifying the emotions of self and others, communication, problem-solving and self-management.


HOW TO SUPPORT INTEROCEPTIVE AWARENESS

Mindfulness is one of the most effective ways to support interoceptive awareness. You can practise mindfulness with your child through:

  • Breathing exercises

  • Yoga or other stretching exercises

  • Stories, comic books and video clips as discussion points

  • Exercise followed by body check ins

  • Whole body muscle tensing and relaxation

  • Mindful eating or listening activities

  • Mapping feelings and sensations on a body outline

TIPS FOR SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD

  • Be positive

    • Punishment or discipline, especially around issues such as toileting, can increase the child's anxiety and make the situation worse

    • Be light-hearted, caring and even fun in your approach to discussing any challenges presented by your child's interoceptive awareness

  • Be child-led

    • Every child is unique, and will require different time-frames and support to develop their ability to recognise and make meaning of their body's signals

    • Make sure your child is ready to talk or practise, even adults can't learn when overwhelmed! Make sure your child is calm and ready

    • It is likely that the child may feel as frustrated as you at times, your patience can teach them to be kind to themselves too

    • Children will generally require co-regulation and repetition before they are able to self-regulate effectively

    • Use everyday language that makes sense to them

  • Be a model

    • Model to your child the process involved in interoceptive awareness:

      • Notice and name the sensations in your own body

      • Link them to a feeling

      • Verbalise the thinking and planning that goes into managing this feeling

      • Identify the action you are taking to manage the feeling

    • Support and develop their vocabulary around sensations and feeling


Play Therapy may help to develop self-regulation and in turn interoceptive awareness, contact us to book in an appointment.

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