Brainwaves, Issue 10, The “Ins and Outs” of Body Awareness

This issue covers the sense of body awareness which is really about a whole lot of different receptors in a whole lot of different places!  These receptors monitor the environment on the inside and the outside of our body… and these days they are detecting a LOT of cold temperatures on the outside!

Brainwaves is a monthly newsletter designed to create some “brainwaves” within my community of colleagues, friends and clients.

The last issue was about our sense of taste and how our tongue is only involved in recognizing four tastes (bitter, sour, salty and sweet).  The rest of how we taste is connected to our sense of smell and breathing in fragrant air through our nose.  I also talked about why kids pinch their noses to avoid tastes and picky eaters.  If you missed this interesting issue, go to my website and read all about it!

McKinley and O’Loughlin in their book on Human Anatomy provide a nice summarfive senses cartoony of the three types of sensory receptors;

1)     Outside receptors or “exteroceptors” include the special sense receptors of taste, smell, sight, balance and sound.  These receptors detect changes from the outside world through the sensory organ (mouth, nose, eyes and ears).  Some of these receptors have different names, for example “photoreceptors” are important in visual processing, and “chemoreceptors” are an important part of smell and taste processing.

2)     Inside receptors or “interoceptors” include general sense receptors that detect temperature, pain, touch, vibration, stretch and pressure from the inside of our body. stretching

  • This group includes “mechanoreceptors” which includes “stretch receptors”.  Stretch receptors have nerve endings in blood vessels that detect changes in blood pressure levels, and regulate voiding from the bladder and colon.  Children who have difficulties recognizing the need to go to the bathroom or when to stop eating may have difficulties with these receptors.  However, this difficulty can also be a problem located in any number of places along the nervous system as the message travels up to the brain often along the vagus nerve.
  •  Temperature receptors or “thermoreceptors” are located in the skin and in macold temperaturesny body organs.  They detect temperature changes and protect the body from extreme heat or cold.  Some of our children or folks with neurological differences are either over or under-sensitive to temperature changes.

3)     Proprioreceptors detect body and limb movements and are located in our muscles.  These are also a type of stretch receptor.

“Nociceptors” are pain receptors and we will talk more about them in the next issue.

What can be done?

Bladder and bowel issues – A lack of awareness of the bowel and bladder usually means that the child requires scheduled bathroom visits to ensure that they void.  An over-sensitive bowel or bladder may be related to anxiety, or infection.  Remember that digestive difficulties or allergies will also create problems.

Over-eating issues – This can be as a result of an under-sensitive receptor system.  However, over-eating can also be a combination of eating too fast and not chewing food properly.  This often requires portioned meals that are cut into small sized pieces.  Some individuals do well with cueing from others to slow down their eating or structuring the time in between mouthfuls.

Temperature issues – A lack of awareness of outdoor temperature means that other’s need to guide what the child wears.  Transitions in season often bring about difficulties with what to wear but can also be about a change in routine vs temperature awareness.  Over-sensitivity to temperature can result in a person who heats up or cools down quickly. Wearing layers of clothing may help if they are not too touch sensitive and wearing absorbent cotton material on the layers near the body.  Natural fibers are much more likely to breathe and allow temperatures to disperse compared to man-made fibers.