The 8th Sense

interoception blog

*This post is based on personal experience and is for information purposes. Always seek professional advice from social, health and educational providers in regards to a person’s care.

I thought that we only have 7 senses:

  1. Sight
  2. Smell
  3. Taste
  4. Hearing
  5. Touch
  6. Vestibular
  7. Proprioception


interoception image

There is an 8th sense, Interoception. Interoception is the sensation that we feel internally, inside our body. I found out about Interoception through a course. After this, I began to reflect about my son as a young child and how some of the things that happened could be down to poor interoceptive awareness.

My son, for years, has suffered from constipation and used to be on medicine for this. Sometimes when using the bathroom, he needs to press down and lean forward to feel that sensation of needing to go.

When he was younger, he could not relate to that fullness sensation when eating and would sometimes overeat. I would have to monitor him eating and prompt him to slow down, stop or take a break. Even now once he has eaten, he instantly wants to get up and rush about. I have to encourage him to rest for a while after eating. Not to mention that I always have to prompt him to drink water after running about and throughout the day. An example for my son is that he runs about and begins to sweat but does not understand why he is sweating but continues to run about.


sleep image

The main issue that I have encountered with my son is staying asleep. When he was younger, it was difficult getting him to go to sleep. Now my son goes off to sleep no problem; however, struggles to stay asleep throughout the night. It is although his brain is continually active. He has even mentioned that he sometimes wakes up and enters my room and stares at me while I’m sleeping.

I will be writing another post on autism and sleeping issues as I’d like to discuss this topic more in-depth as there is so much to cover.


emotions image

My son has always struggled with his own emotions and sometimes interpreting others. It is hard for him to identify the correct emotional response to a social situation. We are complexed individuals. We cry tears of sadness, as well as tears of joy and this illogical response is incredibly confusing for him.


feeling ill

One area, which as a mother I worry about, is when he struggles to recognize feeling ill. I remember when he had a sports session, and he was running about and was sick. He was confused to where the sick came from and continued to run about (not realizing that he had been ill) I had to sit him down to get him to stop. He has even walked around the house being sick and I would have to take him to the toilet.

It is as though he is not in tune with his body and is not aware straight away so does not know what action to take. I need to help him become more aware of when he needs to rest.

I remember another time (when my son was younger) to when my son was going about his morning as usual. He had shown no signs of being unwell. He was very active and talkative. I sent him into school none the wiser only to receive a phone call later that day. The receptionist informed me that he was asleep at his desk and was not responding when the teacher was calling his name. I rushed into school and took him to the doctors immediately. He had the flu virus.

Sometimes it is difficult knowing when he is ill because he never complains about feeling unwell because he does not always recognize the signs.

Interoception Strategies

Here are a few strategies, that help with Interoception:

When my son has a sensation, he does not necessarily link this to pain or feeling unwell. You can use a traffic light colour coding system to highlight the areas of your body that feel different. This is a great way to start off the process of linking that different feeling of being unwell.

  • Visual Support
an example of a visual bedtime routine
Visual Bedtime Routine

For those who cannot recognize that sensation of needing to go to the toilet, you can incorporate this task as part of a bedtime routine.

a visual prompt to drink after play sports
Visual Prompt

At sports time at school, you can create a small visual card to show an image of a drink next to the activity. This gives a visual prompt to drink water while playing sports.

  • Pilates/Yoga: Teaches people to be in tune with their inner body.