If you have a child with super sensory smelling, you know that they can detect the slighting odor anywhere in the house. My son sometimes comments on a smell I wouldn’t even notice (or can’t figure out) because he can be so sensitive.
Today on Voices of SPD we are joined by Heather of Changed for Good Autism, who experienced her son’s super sensory smelling first hand… but it took her days to figure out what he was talking about.
Super Sensory Smelling
Of all his senses, Ben’s sense of smell is perhaps the most keen. He tunes into scents and odors that would barely register with the rest of us. Ben is constantly asking, “What’s that smell like?” This happens several times a day, often at the most inopportune moments, like when we are standing in line at Target behind a heavily perfumed woman. His also has a habit of sniffing everything and everyone, from the flower growing on the sidewalk to that before-mentioned perfumed woman in line.
A few weeks ago, Ben started asking the question every morning during breakfast in the kitchen. “What’s that smell like?” For the first couple of days, I’d reply, “I don’t smell anything. It’s probably just the dogs.” It is, after all, summer, and our hounds love to lounge around outside in the hot sun all day. After the third day, however, I began to detect an odor, too. I checked in the refrigerator, but I didn’t see any suspicious products, so I went about my day without another thought.
On the fifth day, I decided to do a deeper investigation. Ben was perched in his chair at the kitchen table, deeply immersed in an art project. A huge pile of Ben’s Pre-K papers sat in a messy stack next to him, a visual reminder for me to start his memory book. Mixed in the precarious pile were art projects from the year, school assignments, and a few stray photos of Ben and his classmates. I made a mental note to start the process of sorting through those papers later that day. I’m forever putting off these sorts of tasks, as I’m not very crafty and am often too busy for projects of this sort.
So, when Ben asked, “What’s that smell like?” yet again, this time I agreed it was time to find out….
Behind our kitchen table is a very wide window ledge that doubles as extra pantry storage space during busy weekdays (okay, most days). I began digging through the jumbo boxes of cereal and bags of chips recently purchased from our visit to the wholesale club, using my nose to guide me towards to scent. Indeed, the more I dug, the stronger the odor became. Finally, in the back corner, I found the culprit- a long-forgotten bag of potatoes. It had been covered by boxes and containers over the past few weeks until it became completely hidden from view.
Without thinking, I grabbed the bag and swung it upward in a fast attempt to get rid of the foul odor. To my horror, as the bag flew through the air, a stream of putrid potato-juice dribbled out through the bottom of the bag. Screaming in horror, I decided in an instant to take the quickest route possible to the trash can, so I moved rapidly, trying to use the whole “peel it off fast like a band-aid” approach.
Meanwhile, Ben watched the whole production with a mix of horror and awe on his face. Paintbrush in one hand, he attempted to hold his nose with the other as he hunched over his art and bravely tried to keep painting. After a moment that seemed frozen in time, I finally managed to get the bag into the trash. I turned around and reluctantly surveyed the damage.
“Oh, no!” I moaned. Little puddles of potato juice putrescence were everywhere. A drippy trail led from the window ledge, over the table, over the precious Pre-K papers, over the chair cushions, over the floor, to the trash.
By this time, the hounds had approached to investigate and were busily serving as cleanup crew at a nearby puddle. Reflexively, I pushed them outside.
Ben, meanwhile, gave up his artistic attempts. He ran from the room, yelling, “Aaah! This is dangerous!” He retreated to the living room to watch a show, occasionally calling out to me to ask if it was “still dangerous”.
I got to work, a pile of paper towels in hand, mopping up the damage. Luckily, the majority of the Pre-K papers were only mildly affected by the disaster, and I was able to wipe them off and hang them out to dry. After several squirts of cleaner, kitchen and ceiling fans running, and fresh breeze flowing through the kitchen window, Ben proclaimed the kitchen a safe area again.
“No more rotten anymore…” he announced with evident relief.
Days later, he would still bring the incident up out of the blue time and again, as he does with many memorable events.
“What’s rotten made out of?” he wanted to know one day.
“Well, food rots when it sits out too long, and it goes bad,” I tried to explain.
“Why?” he asks, as he does.
“Food only says good for a little while before it starts to get smelly. And then we can’t eat it anymore when it becomes rotten.”
Ben thought about this, and then replied, “You found it and then you said “Oh no” and you screamed, “Aaaah!”
“Yes, I screamed because it surprised me when the bag started to drip. But the bag is gone now.”
This explanation seemed to satisfy him for awhile, but rest assured, every time we see a bag of potatoes at the store from now until eternity, he will comment on them. “Those are not rotten, Mommy. No more rotten. Not anymore.”
And then today, in the middle of watching Lilo and Stitch, he suddenly said to me, “How bout next time we get the potatoes in the fridge? That’s a good idea!”
Yes, Ben. That is indeed a good idea.
This post originally appeared on Changed for Good Autism. You can read more from Heather there.
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