Authors: Kitty Forster, Lara Maister & Dawn Wimpory
Outdoor activities can benefit children with emotional or behavioural difficulties. Looked After Children frequently have a history of complex trauma and tend to avoid traditional therapies. Early adversity exposes a developing child to toxic stress, often leading to a dysregulated nervous system. Interoception refers to internal bodily processes that sometimes enter conscious awareness, including heart-rate, breathing and emotional sensations. Maladaptive interoception can develop following traumatic life experiences, contributing to mental health symptoms. Interoception is associated with emotional regulation, and mindful body-based activities can improve interoceptive awareness. The physicality of outdoor activities makes them ideal sensory experiences for enhancing the connection between mind and body. This current project developed Interoceptive Awareness Opportunities (IAOs) during outdoor activities. Instructors reported IAOs were feasible to incorporate within 1:1 Outdoor Education sessions at a therapeutic children’s home. Instructors successfully engaged children who were resistant to conventional therapy and reported an apparent increase in bodily awareness.