Olfactory: Over Responsive

1. Student is overwhelmed by smells which others do not find unpleasant

A student who is overwhelmed by smells may feel distracted by incoming smells, and in more extreme cases, may feel nauseous and irritated by smells.

Suggested strategies

  • 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

Point to remember

  • Provide the student with a scent they prefer. The student could use this scent to mask unpleasant smells and odours as a coping strategy

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2. 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.

Suggested strategies:

  • 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 access to bland smelling foods, either from the school canteen or a packed lunch

Point to remember

  • 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

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3. 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.

Suggested strategies:

  • Remove perfumed air fresheners and use odourless detergents and soaps in the toilets
  • 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.

Point to remember

  • Keep bathrooms well ventilated

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