Examples of Olfactory Overresponsiveness
A student who is overresponsive to olfactory input (smells) may:
- Notice smells which others do not notice
- Become distracted by smells in the classroom and other settings
- Complain of feeling unwell, but may not be able to identify that it smells causing the nausea/headaches
- Avoid places which are strongly smelling e.g. Home Economics room, toilets, dining hall
- Eat a restricted range of food due to a dislike of some smells
- Student is overwhelmed by smells which others do not find unpleasant
- Student refuses to eat lunch in the dining hall
- Student complains of being unable to use the school toilets due to the smells
STUDENT IS OVERWHELMED BY SMELLS THAT OTHERS DO NOT FIND OFFENSIVE
A student is overwhelmed by smells may feel distracted by incoming smells, and in more extreme cases, may feel nauseous and irritated by smells.
- Make the environment as fragrance free as possible:
- Ask cleaning staff to use fragrance free cleaning products
- Use un-perfumed toiletries
- Seat student away from the rubbish bin or other objects that may produce strong odours
- Be aware that if you have a scented object, the student may act adversely to that particular smell.
- Keep rooms well ventilated, especially when using strong smelling materials
- Allow student to sit beside open window
- Teach the student appropriate coping strategies:
- Cover nose with tissue
- Inform teacher that smell is unpleasant, either verbally or using a visual cue
- Provide the student with a scent they prefer. The student could use this scent to mask unpleasant smells and odours as a coping strategy
STUDENT REFUSES TO EAT LUNCH IN THE DINING HALL
A student who is overresponsive to olfactory input may find the smells from food in the dining hall too overwhelming, and may therefore be unable to eat or may refuse to enter the dining hall.
- Allocate student a chair beside an open window in the dining hall, and placed at a distance from the kitchen
- Encourage student to eat part of lunch in the dining hall and then allow him/her to move to another room after a few minutes, or when the smells become overwhelming
- Allow student to eat lunch in another room; numbers of students in this alternative room could be limited in order to control the smell of different foods
- Allow student access to bland smelling foods, either from the school canteen or a packed lunch
STUDENT COMPLAINS OF BEING UNABLE TO USE THE SCHOOL TOILETS DUE TO THE SMELLS
A student who is overresponsive to olfactory input may dislike the smell of perfumed air fresheners, detergents and soap in the school toilets, or may be unable to tolerate the more unpleasant smells in the school toilets.
- Remove perfumed air fresheners and use odourless detergents and soaps in the toilets
- Keep bathrooms well ventilated
- Allocate another toilet which is used by less people and may therefore have fewer lingering smells! One possibility is the Disabled toilet, which may only be used by a small number of people.
Examples of Olfactory Underresponsiveness
A student who is under-responsive to olfactory input may not notice smells, and may seek out intense odours.
- Student sniffs objects and people
- Student does not notice strong odours
STUDENT SNIFFS OBJECTS AND PEOPLE
A may try to stimulate the olfactory sense by smelling objects and people, unaware that this is not socially appropriate.
- Provide activities which stimulate the olfactory senses:
- Playing in grass
- Using scented play dough
- Cooking with strong smells
- Provide appropriate scented items in the classroom, and direct the student to these when he/she attempts to smell people or potentially harmful materials. Examples of scented items may include:
- Aromatherapy oils
- Hand cream
- Fresh herbs
- Student carries a tissue or piece of material with a preferred scent and is prompted to smell this instead of smelling people or potentially harmful materials
STUDENT DOES NOT NOTICE STRONG ODOURS
A student who cannot detect unpleasant odours may be at risk of eating or drinking hazardous materials.
- Teach students to use other sensory skills to avoid ingesting harmful foods and substances
- Teach students to read expiry dates and danger labels. A visual reminder page may help with this.
- Teach student visual indicators that a food item should not be consumed e.g. mouldy, change in colour or texture
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