Why play with smell with your vision impaired child?
Our sense of smell is built from receptors in the nose that are connected by pathways to the brain. Connections occur via two pathways, one is a direct route to the brain, while the other takes a path that passes near the roof of the mouth. As such, this channel is connected to our sense of taste, so the sense of smell has added importance when it come to identifying, eating and enjoying food.
Studies have shown that smells can have a stronger link to evoking memories than vision – that’s even more of a reason to work on this sense with a child who has a vison impairment.
As with the vestibular sense (see our movement and balance section), children, especially ones with sensory processing issues, can display hypersensitivity to certain smells, which can have a detrimental effect on their emotional response. There are ways to help desensitise your child but keep an eye out for behaviours such as:
- Overly sensitive to smells
- Notices smells others don’t
- Anxious around certain smells
- Holds nose in response to certain scents
There are many ways in which you can adapt this sensitivity from making substitutes for certain items to avoiding cooking certain foods in enclosed spaces. Scents can be a great way of promoting calmness and relaxation. If you find your child displays quite high emotions at times, incorporating fragrances and routines that promote calmness can be a good way to help them to develop self-regulation skills.
Use the sense of smell in learning through play! You can add scented play ideas in sensory activities for toddlers so that they will start to develop connotations with certain memories and link scents to play. When they are older, they can transfer these skills into everyday life.