We live in the country. Not just a little bit in the country, but far enough out that it takes us 15-20 minutes to drive anywhere. The grocery store, preschool, my hair salon, restaurants…it’s at least a 15 minute car ride to civilization 🙂 I grew up where it took 20 minutes to get anywhere so for me driving is just second nature. I have to laugh when people go on and on about how far I drive to take B to preschool (it’s only 18 min. one way). Oh, and the absolute horror that I would even think to drive back home, and put B’s sister down for a nap only to drive back again and pick B up 😛
The biggest issue I have with driving right now are the smells we deal with on the way to driving anywhere, but especially preschool. We pass at least 6 farms on the way to school. Spring, fields, and cow farms=a lot of strong-smelling manure. Sorry, but it’s true, and it’s torture for B’s sensitive little nose. She will hold her hand over her face the majority of the way to school and then ask me when it’s safe to smell again. The manure smell, the “dead skunk on the road” smell, and other mysterious odors I can’t quite identify drive the poor girl crazy!
The smelling issues do not end while we’re driving. She has issues with smells everywhere she goes. I remember one day when I went to help a friend organize her house. She was cooking a cabbage recipe in her crock-pot, and B could barely stand it. She exclaimed, “Mommy, her house stinks!” She held her nose the entire time my friend and I talked. She also had a bit of an issue going back there. She was afraid it always “smelled” stinky like cabbage. She has gone back, but only after I convinced her that her house doesn’t smell like that on a regular basis 🙂
Smells paired with food is especially hard for B. When her sister eats a hot dog for lunch or dinner, she physically leaves the room and waits until the smell is gone before she’ll eat her own lunch/dinner. If she cannot stand the smell of a certain food, you can bet she won’t taste it. Most of the time she won’t look at either without going into fight/flight mode. She even requests us to brush our teeth after we eat something she can’t stand to smell.
From a sensory perspective, smell is a tough place to get stuck. We all know that when something smells bad to us our bodies can make us feel physically sick to our stomach. It’s the same issue with B. Only her smell sense is over-the-top intensified. Her over-responsive sense of smell is constantly making her feel threatened.
Of course, her other senses cause issues too. Texture, temperature, taste, but smell is one of the hardest senses to work on. At least in my opinion. Most of us either like a smell or we don’t. If you don’t like the smell of something, it’s hard to condition our bodies and brain to like it. After talking to B’s food school therapist and OT, we’ve learned that her entire sensory system is often times mixed up. She’s proved this to us a number of times. One night she was eating the egg-whites of a hard-boiled egg. She really likes the whites. On this particular night, she ate it and decided it TASTED like mashed potatoes. Here’s the interesting thing. B has never TASTED mashed potatoes! So, how would she know it tasted like it? She wouldn’t. I did SMELL the egg whites, and they (oddly enough) did SMELL similar to mashed potatoes. It was like her brain was playing a trick on her senses and causes her to recognize it as taste vs. smell.
We had another instance at food school a couple of weeks ago. She was playing with chicken sticks. She kept complaining about how they smelled (and to B they probably did have a small odor), but she wasn’t asked to smell them. She was only to touch and play with them. When it was time to clean up, she got close and blew the chicken stick off of the therapist’s hand, but refused to blow them off her own hand. The smell was the same both times. It never changed, yet she couldn’t handle the “smell” on her own hands. Again, her brain wasn’t registering smell the way it should.
The cool things is we are going to start working on her sense of smell. I’m not exactly sure how much it will help her, but we’ve got to try something! We are going to go out and buy smelly makers, smelly stickers, scratch-and-sniff books, and work w/ different extracts and oils. Her therapists and I are thinking that the reason she keeps getting stuck (in regards to eating) has a lot to do with how her body is feeling (organized vs. disorganized) and how it’s processing smells. It appears that when B likes a smell (like strawberry) she feels that the food is somewhat safe and is more willing to play/interact with it. It seems oddly familiar to her. Like how a newborn identifies their mother. Smell is a powerful sense, and I’m hoping that this is another baby step in the right sensory direction.