How Aromas Can Be Used In The Treatment and Education For Children With Autism And Learning Disabilities
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...
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.
While MindScent® Smell.Discover.Connect kit was initially developed for SLPs and educators, it can also be a great learning and discovery activity the entire family can enjoy together during this challenging time of "Stay Home, Stay Safe".
The MindScent® area was abuzz and I think that all attendees enjoyed reading the various comments by others before them. One response that triggered my own memory was for the smell of bread: "smells like the bread at Macaroni Grill" --where I often took my girls for family night out while living in Middletown, NJ. I'm not sure if that Macaroni Grill is still on Highway 35, but we sure enjoyed the smell and taste of their homemade bread!
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?
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...