What is Interoception?

We are all familiar with the senses of touch, taste, smell, but you’ve likely never heard of our 8th sense: Interoception.

Interoception is our 8th sense which allows the body to send signals to the brain in order for us to be aware of our bodily cues. These signals allow us to recognize internal physical and emotional states such as: feeling hungry, tired, cold, full, pain and SO MUCH MORE! Every individual experiences interoceptive cues differently, and each child uniquely recognizes internal physical and emotional states. Therefore, experiencing challenges with interoception can present differently for each individual.

Why is interoception important?

Interoception skills are important for everyday life. This includes managing emotions, body awareness, self-regulation, and social skills. These interoceptive signals are important in keeping the body functioning properly and allow the body to react when there is a change. For example, your brain might notice your bladder is full, prompting you to feel the urge to use the bathroom. Also, individuals can present difficulty managing emotions. People who are under-responsive to interoceptive cues may have difficulty recognizing the emotion they are feeling as well as recognizing what emotions the people around them are experiencing. In contrast, if a person is overresponsive to interoceptive cues a person can have a heightened sense of internal signals and can have an intense reaction when experiencing a certain emotion, which can cause difficulty with self-regulation.

How challenges with interoception can present in children:

● unable to feel hungry

● unable to feel full

● unable to feel the need to use the bathroom

● over responsive to pain

● under responsive to pain

● difficulty understanding body sensation attached to different emotions: heart beat, breathe

● difficulty understanding bodily cues connect to different temperatures: if something is too cold or too hot

● emotional regulation difficulty

● difficulty with social interaction

How can occupational therapists address challenges with interoception?

Occupational therapists can create interventions to specifically target goals to build interoceptive awareness and help children with self-regulation and emotional regulation strategies.

Activities to target interoception:

● Deep breathing exercises

● Providing visual cues within the child’s physical environment, such as showing a child a zone of regulation chart. Using visuals to show different types of emotions can help a child with self-regulation

● Participate in an activity, such as exercising. During the activity ask the child questions regarding their internal cues such as: How is the pace of your breathing? Is your heart beating fast or slow?

● Mindfulness exercises

● Participating in a yoga class

● Developing social stories

● Have a child participate in heavy work activities such as swimming, jumping, riding a bike

● Participate in activities with different temperatures: hot vs. cold activities


Barker M, Brewer R and Murphy J (2021) What is Interoception and Why is it Important?. Front. Young Minds. 9:558246. doi: 10.3389/frym.2021.558246

Goodall, E (2016) Interoception 101, DECD, Adelaide Greutman, H. (2019,). 10 interoception activities for kids to support sensory processing.

Growing Hands-On Kids. Retrieved April 27, 2023, from https://www.growinghandsonkids.com/10interoception-activities-and-strategies-for-kids.html

Janssen, Heidi Lynn, “Interoception Toolkit: A Resource For Occupational Therapy Practitioners To Use With Children And Their Families” (2022). Occupational Therapy Capstones. 502. https://commons.und.edu/otgrad/502

Written by Briana Lenna, OTS