Interoceptive Sense

by Carolyn Wheeler
(Binghamton, NY)

I have had a number of parents ask for ways they can help their child regulate their interoceptive sense for sleep, toileting, and feeding problems. Any suggestions??

The SPD Help Line Answers...

Ah, the interoceptive sense... very good question! Indeed an area of SPD that is not talked about enough, not researched enough, and whose solutions are not as readily available or known. But, we are indeed aware how much it affects our SPD kids, as parents and professionals working with and raising them.

Internal Regulation as influenced by the interoceptive sense is definitely one of the most difficult aspects of SPD, and often one of the last areas to resolve. This is frequently frustrating for both parents and therapists. Internal regulation is "a balance between inhibitory and excitatory control", as defined in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth (1999). We can clearly see visible signs that this is not working properly in our SPD kiddos. They will have difficulty in the areas you mentioned and a few more.

For a deeper understanding of the interoceptive sense, how it relates to internal regulation, as well as specifics on potty training read Issue #016 of The SPD Companion Newsletter from July 2007, SPD And Potty Training

Besides the information in that article, my research leads me to the following specific techniques that can help regulate the interoceptive senses:

1. Buzzing & Brushing (Burpee Method or Wilbarger Protocol) making sure these are absolutely done intensely and consistently for as long as the child needs it. For example, initially The Wilbarger Brushing Protocol is done every two hours for two weeks. After this it can be cut down to whatever frequency is necessary, but done consistently.

2. Whole body work in OT and at home using proprioceptive and vestibular techniques and treatments.

3. Listening Therapy CD's (such as Therapeutic Listening)that specifically address regulation.

4. Companion programs such as Brain Gym, Interactive Metronome, Astronaut Training, etc. can help too.

5. Lastly, a good sensory diet followed consistently every day will be of great therapeutic value. Through the sensory diet the child may "physically" begin to regulate his system, and "mentally" gain insight

into how his body is feeling/not feeling, why, and what he can do about it as things happen (or preventative, ideally). The more awareness he has, the better he will be able to help himself. How Does Your Engine Run (The Alert Program) is very useful for this in particular.

I do hope this helps get you started on some suggestions for therapy and for parents to use at home. The interoceptive sense is certainly the toughest of all areas, but it CAN be resolved well with the above mentioned therapies.

Anyone else have any good therapeutic techniques that have worked for them? I would love a discussion about this and look forward to any input anyone else has!

Take care.


On the relationship between interoceptive awareness, emotional experience, and brain processes An article from: Cognitive Brain Research by O. Pollatos, W. Kirsch, and R. Schandry (Digital) - HTML Buy: $5.95

Pediatric Disorders of Regulation in Affect and Behavior: A Therapist's Guide to Assessment and Treatment (Practical Resources for the Mental Health Professional) ... for the Mental Health Professional) by Georgia A. DeGangi (Paperback - Jul 2000) Buy new: $54.95 $44.51 15 Used & new from $41.50

Self-Regulation in Early Childhood: Nature and Nurture by Martha B. Bronson (Paperback - Dec 19, 2001) Buy new: $28.00 $22.98 21 Used & new from $20.64

Parenting From the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell (Paperback - April 22, 2004) Buy new: $14.95 $10.17 64 Used & new from $4.24

Sensory Integration and Self Regulation in Infants and Toddlers: Helping Very Young Children Interact With Their Environment by G. Gordon Williamson and Marie E. Anzalone (Paperback - Sep 2001) Buy new: $22.50 $15.30 23 Used & new from $14.04

Losing Control: How and Why People Fail at Self-Regulation by Roy F. Baumeister, Todd F. Heatherton, and Dianne M. Tice (Hardcover - Nov 7, 1994)

Handbook of Self-Regulation: Research, Theory, and Applications by Roy F. Baumeister and Kathleen D. Vohs (Paperback - Jan 8, 2007)

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Apr 14, 2011
I think my son may have this
by: Anonymous

I have an 8 1/2 yr old, in diapers, that has completely stumped doctors and specialists for years. We have been through several OTs and several Behavioral Therapists,several Gastrointerologists, and has even been looked at by a neurologist, eurologist and a Motility "Expert". Not to mention all the tests we have had done on him. I recently stumbled upon the Interoceptive Sense online and it is the closest thing I have found that relates to my son. It has been an extremely stressfull voyage. Some of these "specialists" have even called my son lazy. I know that is not the case but just can't seem to get the help we need. I recently told his OT about our findings and she has never heard of this sense before even though she has worked with the others. I don't know if I should stay with her or try to find someone who knows more about this sense. She seems to be open to diagnosis but she does not know how to treat it. I think I will give her the information you have provided and see if we can figure something out. I live in Bellevue NE in case you know of anyone in this area who can help us. Thank You.

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