‘Feelings’. Are we talking emotions, or physical sensations? Both! We don’t have one without the other, and since autistic people, as well as ADHDers, typically experience significant differences in their sensory processing, understanding interoception – the “8th sensory system” – is key to helping learners tune into their emotions and emotional responses.
Reluctance to express feelings might not be due to a pupil’s lack of confidence. And a ‘dramatic’ response might not be a reflection of extreme views.
So often, we’re taught to respond to ideas and situations in ways that are seen as “appropriate”, “safe”, “acceptable”, and sitting within the comfy parameters of what’s considered ‘normal’. But when are we taught to tune into our internal states and name them on a very conscious level? Often we’re not: it is simply assumed that we build and collect knowledge of our ‘feelings’ as we move through childhood. Little do we know how critical our internal sensory processing is for informing our emotional state.
Autistic learners, in particular, often process and respond to sensory data very differently and this has a significant impact on their interoceptive awareness and emotional regulation. So, to support them to grow into healthy adults, it’s important to understand the role of interoception.
By reaching our autistic learners effectively, they can reach their own interoceptive awareness better and this, in turn, will enable them to explore their emotions, opinions and decisions with greater clarity and confidence. These are the building blocks of really effective learning in PSHE and beyond.