Saturday, April 29, 2006

What Stinks?

Last week the school psychologist phoned me to tell me that Sweet M wouldn't go to the girls' play therapy group because the room stank. The school psychologist already makes sure that the garbage cans in her office are emptied before the group starts, so that Sweet M won't be disturbed by stinky leftovers from other children's lunches. But on this particular day there was nothing in the garbage can, and no sandwiches had recently been consumed in the room. No one but Sweet M could smell the offending smell. And she wouldn't go into the room.

Fortunately, the school psychologist didn't try to force her to go into the room. Sweet M played right outside the door. But it's hard to be part of the group — and she loves this group — when you're sitting outside the door because the room stinks.

What doesn't stink is that the school psychologist got it right: she accepted Sweet M's perceptual challenge and accommodated it, and then called to brainstorm with me about solutions. So we're sending some Febreze and some perfumes into school for Sweet M — an olfactory first aid kit for those days when odors overwhelm. That is what I would call sweet progress.

As far as her olfactory sensitivities go, I'm wondering it they're like those I had when pregnant with her. Evolutionary biologists suppose that morning sickness and the heightened sense of smell that comes with it has the function of protecting the first trimester fetus from potential toxins by making the pregnant mother averse to all but the blandest of foods. Some autism parents — I'll have to dig up where I read this — theorize that our kids' olfactory sensitivities are designed to protect them from eating foods that their digestive systems' can't handle well. Or perhaps is simply that the olfactory area of the brain is more developed in our kids than in neurotypical children.

And I'm seeing career opportunities: I wonder if Sweet M might have a future as a perfumer . . . as a "nose."



Do'C said...

Good on that school psychologist! Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Liz here from I Speak of Dreams. An "olfactory first aid kit" -- what a great concept! I wonder, teaching our kids to be self-advocates and problem-solvers--I wonder when it would be appropriate for Sweet M to reach for the perfumed hanky (or whatever coping strategy she likes).

This winter there was an episode where it was so cold the inside of my nostrils were cracked and bleeding. I started using chapstick product (after checking with my doc) --the one I had was scented with lavender. Improved my state of mind.

Anonymous said...

That's a good example of a gift and a curse.

kristina said...

Charlie has a kind of reverse smell-sensitivity. He seeks out intense smells (his shoes, Jim's socks--after Jim takes them off.....). He also sniffs some of his food very thoroughly. It makes me think Charlie's sense of smell is underdeveloped and that's why he goes for the strong smells.