TPP 352: Occupational Therapist Kelly Mahler on the Power in Understanding & Supporting Neurodivergent Kids' Interoception Experience
Does your child ever seem disconnected to their body? Maybe they would completely forget to eat if you didn’t remind them because they never experience hunger, or they can play outdoors for hours in freezing weather but because they’re not really noticing how cold it is, they leave the hat, gloves, and coat at home. Or on the flip side, maybe your child is intensely connected? Maybe they experience such strong internal or external body sensations that it is hard for them to pay attention to anything else or it spikes their anxiety or triggers them into fight or flight mode?
These are just a few examples of extremes and variances in interoception awareness, which is essentially the language of our bodies. And for most neurodivergent kids, interoception is a factor in their ability to hear or feel, pay attention, and ultimately respond to the messages their bodies are sending them at any given time.
I wanted to explore this concept of interoception and differently wired kids more deeply for the show, so I reached out to Kelly Mahler, an occupational therapist who specializes in interoception and is a co-principal investigator in several research projects pertaining to topics such as interoception, self-regulation, trauma, and autism.
Kelly answered my big questions about interoception, including how it relates to sensory processing differences or SPD, why it’s essential that we help our children get to know their bodies’ unique language, and the relationship between ADHD, autism, and interoception. We also talked about what happens in our kids’ brains when they increase their interoceptive awareness, and effective strategies for helping our kids develop in this area.
About Kelly Mahler
Kelly Mahler OTD, OTR/L, earned a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy from Misericordia University, Dallas, PA. She has been an occupational therapist for 20 years, serving school-aged children and adults. Kelly is winner of multiple awards, including the 2020 American Occupational Therapy Association Emerging and Innovative Practice Award & a Mom’s Choice Gold Medal. She is an adjunct faculty member at Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA as well as at Misericordia University, Dallas, PA. Kelly is a co-principal investigator in several research projects pertaining to topics such as interoception, self-regulation, trauma & autism.
Things you'll learn from this episode:
- What interoception is and how it relates to sensory processing differences
- What the spectrum of interoception awareness is and how extremes may manifest
- The relationship between ADHD, autism, and interoception challenges
- How to support a child with poor interoception awareness to become more tuned in to their body’s internal experience
- What happens in our brains when we start to increase our interoception awareness
- How to help older kids who’ve been on the receiving end of compliance-based strategies to reconnect with and trust their bodies
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