Tips – Parenting a Child With Olfactory Dysfunction (Hypersensitivity to Smell)

9 Feb

Children on the autism spectrum often have traits of SPD (sensory processing disorder) which could affect any one, if not all of their seven senses.

In my last blog post I gave some tips on parenting a child with Tactile Defensiveness (Hypersensitivity to touch) today I want to write about Olfactory Dysfunction (Hypersensitivity to smells).

Its important to note that not all children with sensory processing problems will be hypersensitive to sensory stimulus. Some children will experience under sensitivity (under responsive to certain sensory stimulus). Where others, like Little man, can experience both.

Yes, in some areas, our Little man is known as a Sensory Seeking” But though this is true we have found that he is more hypersensitive than under sensitive, especially when it comes down to tactile stimulus.

Although little man does have difficulties with all off his senses, olfactory (smell) fortunately, is one of the least challenging (well, compared to that of his tactile senses). Nonetheless, it does still make things difficult for him. Luckily, Little man is given Occupational therapy as part of his statement and as a result he is learning ways to deal with certain types of hypersensitivity. However, he hasn’t always undergone Occupational therapy and as a parent I’ve had to learn what his triggers are and how to avoid heightening them.

Tip: Change Washing Powders!

If you use a highly Fragrance washing powered, this could well be a tigger for your child’s meltdowns. Try using sensitive washing powders that are fragrance free. I found that the fairy washing powder works well for us.

Tip: Reduce The Amount Of Perfume You Wear When You Are With Your Child.

I used to wear a certain perfume that drove the Little man nuts. It actually gave him headaches so I didn’t have a choice but to stop wearing it in his company. The fact it wasn’t cheap and priced at the higher end of the market made no difference to little man. Seriously… It was, and still is my favourite scent ever! yet I can hardly ever wear it!

Tip: Experiment with foods

Your child may say he/she doesn’t like a certain type of food without even tasting it! Little man could so easy be put off something simply due to the way it smelt. Sometimes its better to use different cooking techniques as some ways of cooking certain foods let of less smells than others. We could never cook scrambled eggs with little man in the house. Even his sister or brother eating a bag of wootsits or other cheesy snack within distance of him would set him off.

I’ve found that certain brands of the same food are less fragrant than others. Sometimes its just better to avoid certain foods altogether, other times I cook them when little man is out of the house.

Tip: Natural Cleaning products

Not only is it cheaper to make your own cleaning products but for a parent who’s child is hypersensitive to certain smells, it can be a way of removing a meltdown trigger. Using lemons and vinegar mixed with borax and bicarbonate of soda makes a great solution to tackle household dirt and grime. Fresh lemons will provide a fresh scent throughout the home, that isn’t too over powering for your child.

Tip: A Good Sensory Diet

Use different scents together to create fun sensory play. A good idea is to gather certain objects together, make the child close their eyes and then guess what the item is your holding simply by smelling it. Of course there will be smells they are hypersensitive too but this way you won’t only discover which smells they cannot tolerate, but those they like too. This means you could then try introducing more of these scents into the home. Maybe you discover that they like the scent of strawberry! You could then replace air freshners with this scent. Plus, by playing such games regularly your child could adapt to certain smells, therefore reacting to them much less in the future. Make sensory games fun, offering certain rewards for correct guesses making children more inclined to want to play.

Tip: Good Social Skills Training

This may seem odd but in fact its very relevant. Children on the autism spectrum can be quite abrupt! They have this tendency to say what it is they are thinking out loud. This is regardless of whether its Inappropriate to do so or regardless of hurting someone’s feelings. Basically if they think you smell funny then nine out of ten times they are gonna inform you you of it, no matter who’s listening! It may be simply because a friend is wearing a perfume they don’t like or maybe the teacher has bad breath. Teaching a child when its OK to say things can help reduce social problems.

Little man got into really big trouble at mainstream school when he told the head teacher that his breath smelt like a dogs… so could he please not talk close to his face. The fact the whole school was gathered in the hall really didn’t help the situation whatsoever.

Social skills training is beneficial for the child on the autism spectrum for countless reasons… This is just one of them.

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3 Responses to “Tips – Parenting a Child With Olfactory Dysfunction (Hypersensitivity to Smell)”

  1. Claire March 24, 2013 at 11:22 pm #

    I would have thought that if your child has hypersensitivity to smells that it would not be appropriate to use any air freshener in the house! They are nasty, unnecessary products anyway.

  2. Carol February 10, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    I’ve never considered this SPD before and couldn’t begin to think of how you could help, it';s so difficult to avoid places that have a smell and seems awful to force a child into such places even when it is needed.

  3. Benedicte Symcox February 9, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    I love this, thank you! My Sweet Girl has a huge sensitivity to smells… unfortunately I haven’t found a way to help her yet… her real triggers are car exhaust, “building” smells (schools, hospitals, even shopping malls have industrial smells either from cleaning products or even the building materials), smoking is a massive one. She uses her teddy as a mask when we are out, and we’ve tried little lavender bags etc… But I find that smell is one of the hardest senses to control…

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