Of course, occupational therapists are familiar with the traditional senses: vision, hearing, smell, touch, taste. We are also knowledgeable about the vestibular and proprioceptive senses, but there’s an “eighth” sense that may not be as familiar to us…the interoceptive sense. This sense takes the sensory input from certain internal organs and shares the information from those organs with the central nervous system. The interoceptive system regulates body temperature, thirst, hunger, heart rate, digestion, and bowel and bladder functioning.
For a child with sensory processing problems, it’s possible that the interoceptive system is impaired. Consider the following issues that are often present in individuals with sensory processing challenges:
- Difficulty regulating body temperature
- Stomach issues (constipation or diarrhea)
- Challenges with potty training (may not be able to feel when bladder is full)
- Feeding issues (decreased awareness of fullness or hunger/thirst)
- Respiration and/or heart rate sensitivities (too fast, too slow, or problems transitioning from being sedentary to exertion)
If your child has a sensory processing disorder and struggles with several of these issues, consult with your occupational therapist. There are therapy techniques and adaptive strategies that may be effective in addressing these challenges.