It is that time of year again when spring is in the air…literally. Often during these spring months, the odors are throughout the air, as trees are budding and flowers begin to bloom. While these smells can be desired by some, they are not always appreciated by all.
The human body can detect over 10,000 different odors. With this many smells, it can be confusing how we often classify odors quickly to either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, depending on our desire and tolerance for a smell. Unfortunately, when it comes to odors, there are only two ways to completely extinguish an odor:
- Remove the source of the odor
- Remove the person affected by the odor
There can be situations when your child may need to tolerate an odor, and these two options are not possible. Below is some insight into your child’s behaviour and ideas how to support.
What Your Child Feels
When a child is caught off guard by a non desired smell, irregardless of it’s source – food or environment – it can be very startling to them. Your child’s brain shifts into danger mode, using back brain thinking (i.e. fight or flight). When this occurs, your focus needs to be supporting your child through the moment. This is not the time to address odor acceptance with your child.
Establish an Odor Routine
The goal is to keep a child inquisitive about an odor, instead of reacting to the odor. To do this, you must establish a odor routine. This routine must be practiced multiple times and become familiar with the child for it to be effective.
- The routine must be practiced with the child in a controlled situation.
- A child should be regulated, calm and feel safe before trying this exercise.
- Discuss with your child how a NEW odor does not always mean a BAD odor.
- Use phrases like ‘I smell something new’ when an odor is detected, as opposed to ‘Do you smell that?!?’.
- Encourage your child to use all of their senses to describe the odor, not just their nose.
- Discuss a plan with your child about how they can handle undesired odors. This could include holding their nose, breathing through their mouth, taking a whiff of a desired smell or leaving the situation.
- Set expectations for your child when you anticipate interactions with strong odors. Remind them to stay curious to the odor and review your plan.
A few weeks ago, we talked about ways to be proactive, flexible, and collaborative when advocating for your child’s special needs at the start of the school year. Now that schools are fully back in session, parents everywhere are starting to feel the true limitations of virtual and blended learning. Many children—especially those with special needs—are struggling to manage their time, emotions, and workload outside of a traditional learning environment.
Your child might not be getting the support he needs right now, but that doesn’t mean your hands are tied. Below are some possible ways you can go about addressing gaps in your child’s accommodations. Remember, each response has pros and cons, and no solution works for everyone. You might even take different approaches at different points in your child’s life—and that’s okay! As always, only you know where you are on your journey and what feels right for your family right now.
Need someone to talk to about how to structure your child’s school day or advice on how to look for outside resources? Check out our new Caregiver Coaching service!
Option #1: Do nothing.
Though it can feel hopeless and frustrating, there are a myriad of reasons why you might not choose to pursue special accommodations for your child at this time. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by his struggles and aren’t sure where to start. Maybe you believe allowing him to have a “normal” childhood is more important than addressing some minor academic setbacks. Maybe you simply don’t have the bandwidth to juggle this new project in addition to the multitude of other responsibilities already on your plate.
Whatever the reason, finding yourself on this path doesn’t mean you don’t care about your child or that you’ve given up on him. Rather, frame this time as an opportunity to observe and learn about what makes your him tick. What kind of things make him frustrated? At what point does he give up or ask for help? What kinds of things does he love to do, and how does he excel at those things? This knowledge will be invaluable if/when you do pursue accommodations in the future.
- Both you and your child’s teacher will be able to observe his struggles and start collecting the data/examples you might need to advocate for him within the school.
- You won’t be forced to spend time, money, or energy you don’t have right now.
- If you do nothing, nothing will change and your child will likely continue to struggle.
- Those involved with your child on a daily basis (e.g. teachers, classmates, family members) will also continue to struggle to manage and support him.
Option #2: Demand change within the school system.
In some ways, this is the hardest and longest path to change, but it also yields the highest potential benefit to your child. That being said, you have to be tenacious. You need the time, energy, and resources to educate yourself about your particular district’s programs and policies. You need to have an understanding of how these programs operate during COVID—i.e., don’t expect services in week 2 if special ed programs aren’t starting until week 3. Finally, you need to come prepared with a clear description of your child’s struggles, anything you feel might contribute to his frustrations or inability to make progress, and some suggestions as to how the team, including parents, can address them in a virtual or blended setting.
Start by assuming the school is on your side, the teachers are good at their jobs, and everyone involved wants what’s best for your child. At the same time, acknowledge that COVID has been disruptive to virtually everyone and every system. Whether or not your school is able to provide him with every accommodation he needs, you will be on the path towards a better situation.
- Ideally, engaging the school is the first step in building a strong, coordinated team—including teachers, therapists, and psychologists—that will rally to support your child.
- At the very least, you will be able to collect more data/examples/documentation on your child’s struggles and what the school is either unwilling or unable to address.
- School services are provided during your child’s regular school day and generally don’t take time away from homework, extracurriculars, family time, or being with friends.
- It is hard. Dealing with the school system takes a lot of time, energy, purposeful observation, and creative thinking about how to solve problems—even when it feels like solving those problems should be the responsibility of teachers or case workers.
Option #3: Establish relationships directly with therapists, tutors, or other outside supports.
Whether you’re looking to establish entirely new supports or supplement existing ones, finding the right outside services for your child takes a lot of trial and error. In some cases, you’ll be able to provide the needed supports at home with relatively small investments. Most likely, though, you will need to spend some significant amount of time researching coaches, tutors, occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, etc. Though these services can be expensive, this is the path that will have the most immediate effect on your child.
School services are often incomplete/imperfect and might not be able to provide all the accommodations you need right now. This doesn’t necessarily mean your school is terrible or unwilling to cooperate; they simply might not be able to see things you’ve noticed in a home setting, or your child might be performing better at school—with various in-class supports—than he is at home, where schoolwork seems confusing and out of context. If you do feel the need to go outside of the school system for additional help, make sure you’re at least keeping them in the loop.
- You will be able to proactively, directly address your child’s issues and personally ensure that he’s getting the support and accommodations he needs to succeed.
- You might be able to gain insight or more details about how to support your child in a day-to-day home setting, not just in an academic context.
- Tutors, coaches, and therapists can be costly in terms of both money and time.
- You will become your child’s case manager. The burden of researching, scheduling, and coordinating different services now falls entirely on you, and it takes a lot of bandwidth.
- Outside services don’t take place during your child’s school day. You will either need to occasionally remove him from class or take him away from extracurriculars, friends, etc.