Photo of Sharon Bacharach
Sharon Bacharach

Graduate Center for Jewish Education

I was recently the only social worker in a sea of occupational therapists at a conference in Colorado about our eighth sense: Interoception, by Kelly Mahler. I have been working with children for 30 years, however, never heard this word before, nor did I know that we have 8 senses. Let’s review them all; there are the standard 5 senses: Taste, hearing, sight, smell and touch. Then there is our vestibular sense, or our sense of balance. Next, proprioception, or our sense of where our body is in space. Lastly, interoception, or our awareness of how we feel inside of our bodies. Our interoceptive awareness or IA, I feel, is a missing piece in helping children and adults understand the mind and body connection to our feelings. Many of us are detached from our body’s sensations and have no idea when we are full, so we overeat. We ignore the signs when we feel sick or when we are thirsty. Someone may “push our buttons” so we go from zero to 100 with anger, and did not notice the signs that our heart was beating quickly and our breathing became shallow. If we learn how to pay attention to our IA, both our bodies and emotions could be more regulated. Kelly shared a multitude of games and exercises for each body part to help children and adults, especially those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, improve their IA. I have already begun to utilize these exercises in my teaching with children and adults. I highly recommend her book Interoception: The Eighth Sensory System, by Kelly Mahler, MS, OTR/L.