Assessing and addressing interoceptive awareness in children and youth with developmental trauma
Complex trauma leads to alterations in sensory processing, including impaired interoceptive awareness. Both alexithymia, the inability to identify and express feelings, and alexisomia, diminished somatic awareness, are associated with traumatic experience and dysfunctional interoception. In collaboration with a partner agency, we are assessing and addressing interoceptive awareness in children and youth receiving treatment for developmental trauma. Our findings are contributing to the development of body-centered, developmentally guided approaches for improving self-awareness and self-regulation in children and youth healing from developmental trauma.
Understanding interoceptive awareness in substance exposed children and youth
Interoceptive dysfunction, specifically deficits in the body-brain connection responsible for adaptively perceiving and regulating the internal state of the body, plays a role in a range of mental health conditions, including substance use. A growing body of intervention research shows interoceptive awareness training with daily practice positively influences emotional awareness and relapse prevention. Together with our community engaged research partners we are examining interoceptive awareness in several groups of substance exposed and substance involved children and youth. These findings will contribute to developmentally informed body-centered approaches for improving self-regulation and strengthening resilience in high-risk children and youth.
Profiles of interoceptive awareness in children and youth with neurodevelopmental conditions
Interoception is a sensory process characterized as an ongoing conversation between the body and brain. Sensory processing issues are a hallmark of neurodevelopmental conditions, especially autism spectrum disorders and other pervasive developmental disorders. These conditions are also associated with heightened anxiety and deficits in emotion processing, both of which are linked to poor interoceptive functioning and awareness. Together with a group of clinical and community partners, we are gathering data on multiple dimensions of interoceptive awareness in this population. The primary aim is to more fully understand interoception in these children and to inform the development of clinical tools for promoting interoceptive awareness and emotional wellbeing.