DENIED! Why am I Doing the Happy Dance?

Six months ago I applied for SSI Disability to help me provide for my Autistic son. Meeting the income guidelines for this assistance, I jumped through all the required hoops of their dog and pony show. I supplied them with a 92-page history and timeline of all Justin’s diagnoses, school records, IEP copies, behavioral and developmental assessments, medication history (yes, I at one time investigated that route out of sheer desperation – a story for another day), and every behavior slip, suspension and punishment notice he’d ever received.

I saw their doctor. I followed up, week after week, inquiring about their decision. All the while, in my journey, I was learning about my son and Autism. I was not happy with the doctor visits, the medication attempt, the rigid recommendations, the books, the cookie-cutter approaches.

In this journey I came across a book by Dr. Robert Melillo called Disconnected Kids. Along with the centers he founded, this book offered a scientifically proven theory about a hemispheric imbalance in children with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Tourette’s, and other disorders. I voraciously digested this information and began applying what I learned immediately. I tested and modified some of the sensory exercises and techniques. I expanded my research on the nutritional guidelines. I drew some new conclusions.

I began supplementing with EFT, teaching my son to tap and performing surrogate tapping when he could not. I also began graciously opening my heart and accepting the gifts of his beautiful mind. The docile nature of our beautiful Alaskan Malamute, Juno, has also had an extremely calming effect on him.

These things combined have changed our world. Oh, our journey is nowhere complete, as he still cannot tie his shoes or ride a bike; we still have days where a trip to the grocery store is a nightmare. It still takes an Act of Congress to get him ready in the morning on time for school. We are working on it, as I refine the techniques that have shown me hope and success. He is now able to smell and recognize scents; we can go to the movies and sit through an entire film; I don’t receive calls to pick him up from school early for being out of control… and he was denied for SSI.

According to my letter, “… the evidence does not show that these conditions are severe enough to be disabling. We have decided that Justin’s condition is not disabling under our rules.”

I’ve been denied, and I’m ecstatic! What mother would not want this kind of news?

Mmm, the Kitchen Smells Like Brownies!

My son exclaimed these words recently and I almost cried.

I have found that a significant number of children with Autism have a poorly developed, if not absent sense of smell. Many don’t even know how to actually sniff, they blow out of their nose instead of breathing in, even after being shown how to do it properly.

I had always thought it odd that at a young age my son never seemed to remark or react to strong scents we encountered in our daily lives. I frequently went back through his older sister’s baby book, searching for any notes about smell in her developmental age milestones. While the ability to recognize scent isn’t really a milestone, I was hoping for some note or comment that I could associate with an age and compare with my son’s inability to smell. But this was different.

In trying to bring a scent to his attention, the same thing would happen: no visible facial indication whatsoever that a smell registered with him, and he also blew out when I suggested he smell something I was holding in my hands.

It wasn’t until much later that I connected it to his sensory processing issues. I was amazed by the realization at just how big of a role smell plays in the ability to learn, memorize, and even socialize.

As with any symptoms on the spectrum, your child may exhibit an over or under sensitivity to smell. Think about this: does your child ever comment on cooking smells at home? Does he or she react to strong smells such as something burning? Or does he or she overreact and complain about smells all the time?

As you will learn in the upcoming Healing the Spectrum therapy program, there is a link between a hemispheric imbalance and behavior and sensory issues. These deficits and issues can be changed. In just a few short experimental sessions, I have restored my son’s sense of smell using a simple and fun exercise twice a week.

The exercise

Tell your child you are going to play a fun smelling game and blindfold him or her. Gather about seven to nine strong smelling items and make sure your child cannot see them! Items that worked best for me were ground coffee, lavender essential oil, black pepper, an onion, peppermint extract, lemon juice, spicy mustard, eucalyptus, sandalwood, and fish oil.

Have the child gently hold their left nostril closed and select your first item. Start by holding it about 12 inches from the child’s nose and slowly move it in until they can identify the scent. Stop once it is correctly identified or if  you are as close to the nostril as you can get and it cannot be named. Make sure you take notes to mark the progress of future sessions. Repeat this with all the items.

Do not be discouraged if they cannot identify the scents at this time. My own child was not able to correctly detect one item on the list for the first two sessions. I would hold an onion below his nose and he would say things like, “Candy?” It was clear that there was no presence of smell whatsoever and he was merely guessing.

Repeat this exercise two times per week, varying the scents so the child doesn’t memorize them. Your first goal is for the child to correctly identify three smells in a row. Once they can identify all of them, you’ll no longer have to perform the exercise.

Back to the brownies

When my son says things like, “Mmm, the kitchen smells like brownies!”, “What is that terrible smell?”, and “I think I smell a vanilla candle somewhere” I am indeed overwhelmed with emotion, because just a short time ago he was physically unable to sniff something, let alone identify it.

**Note: the exercises above are geared toward a right brain deficiency, which is most common in Autistic children. Left brain deficient children will respond more favorably to sweet scents in lieu of strong ones, such as banana, cherry, chocolate, pineapple, floral scents, and citrus.