I am a parent of a daughter who has struggled all her life to fit in to the main stream of society. When she was in grade school, autism wasn't talked about very much. Instead, anyone like my daughter was classified as having a disability and there was even a time when her teachers and fellow students thought she did not speak English. This left my daughter at the sidelines in school isolated and alone. In middle school her shyness continued, she was bullied, and many teased her for being on drugs, so she continued to be sidelined and isolated.
Being a person "on the spectrum" presents huge challenges for the child and for their parents who have the task to raise their loved one from toddler stage into their adulthood and beyond. For parents, the ultimate goal is to help guide them on how to navigate the complicated world we live in, and to help give them the resources to learn to communicate as optimally as possible. The complexities of challenges are endless and are exacerbated for families with limited incomes and the availability of resources such as the professionals who have the expertise to help: Occupational and speech therapists and psychiatrists and group homes. The goal for me was to develop a tool that can be used by both professionals and parents in .
There is a new term called "scent craft" that I read about recently in the March issue of WGSN Intelligence Report regarding an educator in the UK using scent to help educate her young students. The description of her kits are similar to my multi sensory kit, and so my first reaction was WOW! Someone else in this world has the same line of thinking as I did when I developed MindScent®...an extension of the Essential Awakenings® Smell and Memory Kits! The article solidified my belief that there is a future for MindScent® and the methods for use that I developed with the guidance of an SLP and an educational director at an autism center down in Brooklyn, NY in 2018.
The stars became aligned when in early April, a young freelance writer named Astrid Bonner wrote to me to ask if she could contribute to my blog, and I accepted. Even though the portion included below speaks more about aromatherapy (as the general population knows it), it also includes the term aroma therapy. What's the difference? Please read on, and you'll find out.
Effects of Aromatherapy for Children With Autism:
Children with autism often have sensory abnormalities. A study found that 40% of these children have altered smell perception. The same study confirmed that children with autism present impaired odor identification despite having normal odor detection. However, more research still needs to be done on when altered olfaction (scent processing) occurs. It’s possible that the difficulty with odor identification may be caused by impaired neural mechanisms or by language problems in the common odor task. This led to a slew of specialists, including occupational therapists (OTs) and speech-language pathologists (SLPs), to integrate olfactory sniffing and aromatherapy into their treatment plans.
Aromatherapy using essential oil blends has been proven effective in helping children with autism manage symptoms like hyperactivity, sensory overload stress, and anger. Dr. Jill Hollway, Research Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Health at The Ohio State University attributes this benefit to the oils' inherent soothing properties. However, she suspects that aromatherapy using certain blends of essential oils can be more effective in helping kids transition to bedtime, a common challenge for children on the autism spectrum.
When used in conjunction with visuals, aromatherapy helps ease stress and anxiety in children with autism spectrum disorder, as seen in the UPMC Children's Harrisburg sensory station. They use a projector to show calming scenes while having an aromatherapy diffuser expel relaxing scents.
In a column published in the Herald-Chronicle, Nikki Shrum talks about...
The word anosmia was virtually unknown amongst the general population until last year when COVID-19 arrived on our front doorsteps and took over world news. So what is anosmia? Anosmia, is a complete loss of sense of smell, and is often caused by an illness or head trauma.
This blog discusses the various ways Essential Awakenings® Smell & Memory Activities and Kits can help enhance the lives of seniors living with dementia: As a vehicle for storytelling, socialization, connectivity and communication. Plus, how the awareness of the sense of smell can save your life.
Because of COVID-19, the world has learned more about the sense of smell and its importance to emotional wellbeing. As Dr. Rachel Herz states in The Scent Guru Group’s Smell Training Guide, “most fundamentally, our sense of smell gives us a sense of our self, our feel of connectedness with others, and is a central component to the overall quality of our life.”
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1857
Well here we are...the end of September, and fall is officially here. I admit that Spring is my favorite season because it signifies the reawakening of warmer weather, colors and plant life, but fall is a close second because of the cooler weather, colorful leaves, and sweater nights, but it’s also the warning that the cold days of winter are coming and it’ll be time for hibernation. To prepare myself for the months ahead, I decided to take a road trip to see parts of the country that I have not seen, and to finally see my daughters who I have not seen since December! I decided that this trip would be one that would revive my soul and get me prepared for the months ahead. Along the trip, I smelled everything from cattle farms and freshly mown hay going through Pennsylvania, to the cool crisp water of Lake Erie in Cleveland, and then the wonderful leathery smell of Kentucky Bourbon. With these types of sensory experiences, my thoughts always go to those who are not able to enjoy it. Which is why I think I have to concoct more of these types of scents for my smelling sessions. The brainstorming of new scents must begin!
With COVID-19 still looming, assisted living communities are struggling to get back to a regular schedule of activities, and those that do occur are often virtual. We are living in a Zoom, Facebook and Google Chat world, and I’m ready to adjust to this new normal for Essential Awakenings® Smell and Memory activities. It may sound almost impossible, but it is not. This is what you’ll need, and how it can be done:
1). The ALC or Senior Center will need a large computer screen, and the Zoom Ap, or any other preferred. I use Zoom, but can use others too.
2). The Essential Awakenings® kits: A 1st and 2nd Edition with 6 scents each that I carefully selected based on their ability to spark conversation and also as scents that resonate with as many people as possible who come from diverse geographical and cultural backgrounds.
3). Most communities have Life Experience and/or Program Directors, sho I will need to communicate with them with regard to the sequence of scents so they can pre-apply the scents to the paper smelling strips and distribute them to the attendees during our activity session.
4). The Program Director and I will coordinate a time for a 40 minute session, for which I will send an email invitation with Log-in information.
5). To make the activity most effective, a small group per community is preferred (or whatever the current health allowances are for the community). The beauty of this activity is that multiple communities from different time zones within your organization can be present as well! I’m excited to think about how fun the interactions will be!
Right now though, I will be completing my road trip to the Midwest so that I can hug my daughters and will be back to my home office mid-October. In the meantime, I’ll be working on finessing my tech savviness so as to gear up for sessions this fall and winter to help all of us get through the months ahead. The holidays are coming, so you can better believe I’ll have the smell of apples, pine, popcorn, chocolate and cinnamon on hand to tell stories of holiday happiness!
As always, feel free to email me any time with questions and to start scheduling Essential Awakenings® sessions for the end of October through to Christmas. Weekdays are preferable.
Have a wonderful autumn!
I’ve been taking a motivational course for entrepreneurs and during one of the modules, I received one of the most important, simple takeaways from any course or webinar I’ve taken during the pandemic: Don't forget the “WHY”. I find myself saying those words out loud and even my sleep! The “WHY” should be so simple, but yet it’s often easy to loose sight of.
This is happiness: "I lost my sense of smell and taste when I had COVID in March. Several months later, I was surprised to still not be able to smell and taste. The world seems a bit flat and uninteresting without those two senses. Luckily, I contacted Ruth and she sent me her wonderful smelling kit. The variety of scents and the easy use of the applicators motivated me to use the kit fairly regularly. A doctor explained it to me like this: When you injure your leg, you do physical therapy to regain your strength and agility. This is like physical therapy for your sense of smell. Both taste and smell have improved greatly with the use of the oils, but taste is definitely in the lead. I've still got a ways to go until I fully recover, but this lovely kit has speeded up the process for sure. Many thanks to Ruth and The Scent Guru Group!" - Cristina Y., L.C.S.W. Connecticut
An Essential Awakenings® activity is easy to conduct. Anyone can do it, and a lot of it is instinctive. The smell prompts can be used as a guessing game that stimulates the mind and challenges the audience to think and express how they would describe the aroma or for storytelling time. Everyone has a story, and the facilitator can lead the way by telling their own stories connected to the aromas.
The holiday shopping season is here, and I'll be showcasing MindScent® and Essential Awakenings® sensory tool kits at this week's WBDC's Pop Up Shop in Stamford, Connecticut. Even though I've developed MindScent® and Essential Awakenings® for Speech, Occupational and Recreational Therapists, families can also benefit and have fun playing smell and tell, or guessing games. MindScent® also includes fact cards great for learning. For instance, did you know that the Providence, RI metro area has been cited as having the most donut shops per capita with 25.3 shops per 100,000 people? And that it takes almost 3 years for a single pineapple to reach maturation?
Shifting Paradigms: This month's final blog is about my experience at the National ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) convention in Orlando. Every new experience is new learning for this 60+ entrepreneur who is just trying to help humankind in a very unique and innovative way.
My quest to develop the Essential Awakenings® Smell.Recall.Connect as the first aroma-based activity for caregivers, families and Assisted Living Communities helping seniors living with dementia has been a long road, but I can now say that what I have developed is definitely showing results and bringing joy to seniors in a big way. Even though the original plan was to provide smell prompts to recall memories, its purpose and outcome has broadened and it has become a vehicle for a social activity that facilitates conversation and storytelling.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, studies show that people who stay connected with the most social interaction experience the slowest rate of memory decline, and that "a rich social network provides sources of support, reduces stress, combats depression and enhances intellectual stimulation." Essential Awakenings® was a project of passion-with-a-purpose that was spawned after my mother died of dementia- related causes in 2016, but the seed for a sensory-based activity for seniors had already been planted years before, when I realized I saw loneliness and desperation in the eyes of my mother and others living in the Assisted Communities where she lived for over 7 years until her death.
The Essential Awakenings® Smell.Recall.Connect development required endless hours of planning, research, and walking the walk. I started giving smelling sessions at communities in my area in 2017, and whenever I travelled, I made advance cold-calls to communities in my destination to schedule sessions. By doing so, I have been able to bring the magic of aroma to seniors living in New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Florida! It was through this process that I was able to determine just which aromas would resonate the best by garnering the most conversation and positive memories. I endured many sleepless nights of worrying of the chance of success, and there were days where my nerves were often on edge because I knew I would be taking a sizable financial risk if I were to go forward in manufacturing. I almost decided to call it quits, but realized that I had come so far, with so much work already behind me and knew I was enriching the lives of a countless number of people along the way, that one day I just decided to "just do it". As Shark Barbara Corcoran has said, "Creating a business is all about taking risks." So I proceeded to dig into my personal funds, took a deep breath, and marched forward with production one step at a time. To this date, I have given more than 80 smelling sessions with more than 1000 people in attendance and have sold kits as far away as Singapore and New Zealand.
So what are the actual benefits are for this new activity for seniors? Besides building the awareness of the value of our sense of smell, seniors share memories, interact in conversation regarding these memories and tell stories of their family traditions, vacations, experiences growing up or even tell us about their favorite perfume. The point is, they are connecting with each other. As an example, I'm including anecdotes and testimonials from some of the most remarkable moments from Essential Awakenings® sessions:
"My sense of smell helped save my life in Vietnam." - As told by Tim in a smelling session at Riverhouse Senior Center in Cos Cob, CT
When smelling mint, Vince R. of ComForCare Agency in Stamford, CT said: "This takes me back to my honeymoon in Morocco." When I asked him when he last talked about mint tea in Morocco, he responded "26 years ago."
"It is really a successful tool to create a conversation....and to engage the staff with the ladies. Karlette said the pine smelled like her grandmother’s bathroom in Jamaica. She did not expect to be so moved. This memory got the ladies talking about grandmothers. It is a very profound experience.” Thank you for getting it for us. - Donna Booth, Program Manager, Abilis, Greenwich, CT
“Our elders living in our home have enjoyed...