After two years of giving Essential Awakenings® Smell and Memory Sessions to seniors living in Assisted Living Communities, I realized I had developed a new vehicle to help stimulate conversation, communication and storytelling. The lightbulb in my brain was immediately turned on, and I thought to myself....what if I can help children with autism communicate? And what if I can get children with learning disabilities learn...through the use of my smell prompts? Or, how about giving the opportunity to let inner city children be able to know what the scent of fresh strawberries smells like, and to teach them at the same time the nutritional benefits of strawberries through fact cards?
It all happened with that “what if”. My mantra with Essential Awakenings® from the very beginning was to focus on “humanity versus vanity”, because for more than 25 years, I worked on fragrance development for brands such as Clairol Herbal Essences, and perfumes for megastar celebrities like Celine Dion and Beyoncé, and glitzy fashion brands like Guess. I loved it. Every minute of it. Until...until my mother passed away from dementia-related causes in 2016 at the same time I started to witness my mother-in-law fade into the dark from Alzheimer’s. When tragic and emotional life events such as these occur, one would tend to sit back and ask “what can I do to make the world a better place? How can I help the underserved such as the many seniors suffering from this deadly disease? How can I make their lives more enriching where they would feel the empathy and compassion from people like me?
The journey to develop Essential Awakenings® was long, and I had many sleepless nights worrying about one detail to the next. Then there was the “go-no-go” question one night when I struggled to get to sleep thinking: Should I take the dive? Should I scrape all the money I have in my savings and just do it? The next day, I woke up and said my thanks for Michael Jordan and Nike, and said out loud: “Just do it”.
Fast forward to 2017 when I started to develop my next big innovation that I hope may help children living with autism or other forms of speech communication impairments. Fortunate for me, the development serendipitously started to fall into place from the get go when I decided to "just do it" again. I reminded myself to think with my "gut" and follow my intuition. Part of the development process was to place the smell prompts and photos of the aromas into a school for autism where one of my former colleague’s son goes to school. I traveled down to Brooklyn several times in 2017 and 2018 to sit with students on various levels of the spectrum, first trying one exercise using the smell prompts, then another, and another...all the while getting increasingly better at tweaking the methods for the activity. I also had the fortune to meet a retired Speech Pathologist who was so impressed with my concept that she jumped on board with me to help guide me, and connect me with other professionals in her field of expertise. She was able to get a small network of Speech Pathologists to try the smell prompts and visual cards in various methods in their practice. What resulted was (thankfully) more positive feedback versus the negative, and we found that even though it is said that children on the spectrum do not like scent, none seemed to have a negative reaction to my smell prompts, which consisted of chocolate, popcorn, vanilla, and others. Furthermore, what some of the Speech Pathologists found was stimulation of conversation, game-playing, socialization and storytelling. When you think of it, storytelling is as old as mankind. Its' a way to share culture, history, and is social interaction at its best.
My hope is that teachers, Occupational Therapists, Speech Pathologists and Activities Directors will discover Mindscent®, use it, and help them pave the way for an innovative approach in their work. The power of aroma, its connection to memory and vehicle for communication is so profound, that even some of the seniors I've met who are in the more advanced stages of dementia seem to have a reaction where that light goes on, there's a sparkle in their eyes, and they open their mouth to say something, and then the thought is swept away and gone. But even if for that brief moment in time, I can always tell that it was an emotionally gratifying and magical one, and that's what counts. And that is my hope for Mindscent®...that the distinctive smell prompts can help a child smell. discover and connect.
In honor of those suffering from dementia such as Alzheimer's: June is Alzheimer's and brain health awareness month, and The Scent Guru Group is offering 20% off of any activity kit using the discount code HOMECARE2019 at checkout.