a woman teaching a child with flash cards

As experts in human communication, speech therapists have an incredibly profound role in supporting the language development of the clients and students they support. Speech therapists help kids learn to communicate a wide variety of messages, including how they feel and what they need. However, many speech therapists have never heard of the term interoception. Nicknamed the ‘8th sense’, interoception helps us to perceive a wide variety of sensations in our body. For example, a growling stomach, full bladder, relaxed muscles, dry mouth, sore ears, pounding heart, and sweaty skin, are all sensations you might experience because of interoception. These interoceptive sensations provide vital clues to what emotion or body needs we are feeling, including thirst, hunger, sleepiness, need for the toilet, pain, body temperature, anxiety, or excitement. Because interoception helps us know and understand how our body feels, it is the first step to successfully regulating and communicating our needs and emotions.

Although we don’t generally think about it this way, interoceptive body sensations are what actually give concrete meaning to emotion words. We come to understand what these words mean based on our inner body sensations or signals. For example, how does frustrated feel to you? For me, it’s when my shoulder and face muscles feel tense, my ears have a buzzing sensation, and my brain feels stuck. For another person, it might mean their body starts to feel hot, their voice gets loud, and their brain feels like a rock. Interoceptive sensations help us learn the concept of emotion words; in other words we learn emotions from the inside out.