The third hidden sense, interoception, is our point of focus today. Interoception is the sense that involves processing internal information like:
- Body temperature
- Hunger and thirst
- Heart rate
What is Interoception Dysfunction?
- Difficulty understanding emotions
- Difficulty understanding hunger and thirst
- Difficulty understanding when to use the bathroom
- Difficulty understanding pain and temperature
Identifying Interoception Dysfunction
Each child is unique, but there are certain things to watch for:
- Potty training challenges - While any child can have trouble with toilet training, look out for situations where your child doesn’t notice or care that their diaper is soiled or wet or holds urine until they get an infection.
- Eating challenges - This manifests in many ways, including overeating, undereating, or complete disinterest in mealtime. It can also include consuming too much or not enough water.
- Pain tolerance challenges - This symptom can be dangerous. A child might sustain an injury but never tell anyone because they do not feel the pain.
- Emotional challenges - The child might not be able to understand the emotions of others and their own emotions.
Ways to Improve Interoception
Talk with their pediatrician if you suspect your child might be struggling with interoception dysfunction. You can take many steps to help your child cope with these issues and experience happy, healthy days. An Occupational Therapist can also help you develop strategies.
Here are a few examples of what professionals might suggest:
- Eating and drinking - Stick to a consistent mealtime, including snacks and beverages. Keeping things regular and fun is essential! Get your child their own water bottle and make mealtime enjoyable by involving your child and including them in conversations.
- Bathroom - Try a bathroom schedule to keep your child on track and consider a reward system to encourage positive thoughts around using the toilet.
- Mindfulness - Mindfulness is simply paying attention. You can explore this practice for yourself and your child and seek the guidance of a mindfulness expert if you like. Paying attention to thoughts, feelings, and sensations can help improve interoception.
- Pain tolerance - In addition to not feeling pain when they should, your child might experience pain in a situation where you wouldn’t expect them to. Practice empathy even if you don’t understand why your child is in pain. Talk with your child about safety precautions and try to find ways they can engage in their favorite activities without pain.
It can be hard to think about your child experiencing pain, thirst, hunger, or sadness without knowing what is happening. But your guidance and instruction will help them understand themselves and their bodies so they can be their absolute best.