Have you ever been so hungry that your mood starts to change? Have you ever had to use the restroom so badly that that is all you can think about? Do your hands get clammy and your heart start to race when you’re nervous? Did you know that there is an entire sensory system devoted to these types of feelings? It’s called the interoceptive system. The interoceptive system allows our bodies to stay in homeostasis, or balanced. The nerve receptors of this sensory system are found within our internal organs, bones, muscles, and skin. These receptors send messages to the brain to allow our body to respond to the input. So if you are cold and the hair on your arms is standing up and you have goosebumps, this is the interoceptive system telling your body to get a blanket!
The interoceptive system is directly linked to our emotions as well. The receptors recognize the stressor or stimulation and cause us to feel a certain way. For example, when you’re angry, you might start to feel hot and your muscles may tense up. So what can we do to help control our interoceptive system? We become detectives to read our physical cues to determine what our body needs to return to homeostasis. If we’re hungry, we eat a snack. If we’re tired we might have some coffee or take a nap.
In order to become good detectives, we must first learn to recognize and respond to those internal sensations. We recognize the need to use the restroom after an internal signal from receptors in the bladder. Our response is then to get up and use the restroom. At MPPT, our occupational therapists are specially trained to identify and address the complexities of all eight of the sensory systems. We will work with your child to not only identify interoceptive sensations, but also what to do when those sensations are felt. This may include an individualized sensory diet or strategies to utilize when the body begins to falter from equilibrium. That change in equilibrium may come from sensations of hunger/thirst, tiredness, bowel/bladder management, and/or overall sensory processing. Some children may have difficulty registering the input and may be over or under-responsive to the signals being sent to the brain.
Our occupational therapists at MPPT will analyze the daily activities and routines of the child to better understand both internal and external input. Insight into the environmental contexts will help our therapists identify and address the individualized needs of the child. Interoception is a sensory system that is often overlooked when it comes to sensory integration. Our occupational therapists provide thorough evaluations regarding this system, please ask us more about it!