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Managing Olfactory Sensitivity

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I have worked with some kids who are very sensitive to certain smells, and they have trouble being in places where there are certain scents. Optimally, we want these kids to get de-sensitized so that they are free to go anywhere that they want to go, regardless of what scent is there. This is a very difficult thing to change because environmental smells are not something that we can usually control or modify. The kids have to figure out a method that works for them to help them deal with the smells that bother them.


In a therapy sessions, I will work on a task that has some scent involved, and the student works and takes breaks to leave the room to get away from the smell when needed, then comes back to work some more.

I have had students that like to carry around Smencils (which are scented pencils) in order to smell them throughout the day because they enjoyed the smell and it was relaxing to them. To continue with the concept of carrying good smells around with you, I got some terra cotta diffuser necklaces to use for this purpose.


To use a diffuser necklace, you put drops of a scent onto the terra cotta and it is absorbed into the terra cotta and then holds the scent for the day. I want to be able to have kids choose a scent that they like in order to have it with them and use it all day long. The diffuser necklace holds the scents well, and I was able to use a pretty large variety of different types of scents. I used some Peach Extract and Strawberry Extract, and once the alcohol in the extract evaporated (which took a couple of hours), the smell of the peach and strawberry was really great. You could use vanilla extract or any other good smelling quality extract. I also tried it with some nice smelling essential oils, and it worked wonderfully. If using essential oils, you also get the benefit of the oil as well as the smell.

I was worried though that the scent would dissipate too quickly into the air and not be strong enough in order to be effective at covering up other scents, so I brainstormed other ways to keep the scent contained in a natural way so that it could be brought out when it was needed. I came up with lip-balm.

It is very normal to carry lip-balm around in your pocket, and some of the store bought ones smell really good. But you can also make your own lip-balm (I made a sweet blackberry peppermint lip balm) and scent it with any scent that is preferred. You can use essential oils or flavor extracts to add scent, and you can get empty Lip BalmTubes on Amazon.


Another (and easier) way to carry around scent is to place the drops of scent onto wooden craft beads (I got mine at Michael’s). If you use the small ones, you can keep them in a pocket or put them inside an empty lip-balm container to contain the scent until you need to bring it out and use it.  You can also get some terra cotta clay at Michaels and make terra cotta balls that will absorb and contain the scent.

Have you tried any of these methods? Do you have another technique that you use?

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Tonya is a pediatric Occupational Therapist, and loves creating things to work on skills and solve problems.

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  1. If you used young living essential oil their is no alcohol in the oils at all. Because of my child’s sensitivity I have to be extremely cautious as to what smells I bring into the house. Anything other than young living EO is a NO FLY ZONE. Check them out. Saw the February deal for them in the blog!

    1. With the alcohol, I was talking about the peach and strawberry extract. Definitely no alcohol in the essential oils.

  2. Hi. Any ideas for a 10 year old that refuses to eat in the cafeteria with other kids because of the smells? He eats alone with an adult in a classroom instead.

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