The Interoceptive Sense

A number of parents have asked for ways they can help their child regulate their interoceptive sense for sleep, toileting, and feeding problems.



The interoceptive sense... 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

Interoception is definitely one of the most difficult aspects of SPD, and is often one of the last areas to be resolved. 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: A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night's Sleep. We can clearly see visible signs that this is not working properly in our SPD kiddos. They will have difficulty in the areas of sleep, toileting, and feeding problems.

For a deeper understanding of the interoceptive sense, how it relates to internal regulation, as well as specifics on potty training read 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: A Sound Activated Vestibular-Visual Protocol: For Moving Looking & Listening, 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. Introduction to How Does Your Engine Run?: The Alert Program for Self-Regulation 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.

Related Resources

Interoception: The Eighth Sensory System

Pediatric Disorders of Regulation in Affect and Behavior: A Therapist's Guide to Assessment and Treatment (Practical Resources for the Mental Health Professional)

Self-Regulation in Early Childhood: Nature and Nurture

Parenting from the Inside Out: How a Deeper Self-Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive: 10th Anniversary Edition

Sensory Integration and Self Regulation in Infants and Toddlers: Helping Very Young Children Interact With Their Environment

Losing Control: How and Why People Fail at Self-Regulation

Handbook of Self-Regulation, Third Edition: Research, Theory, and Applications

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