Olfactory (Smell)

The olfactory system is responsible for the body’s ability to detect and recognize smells using chemical receptors in the nasal cavity. Children with olfactory processing issues may have trouble identifying hazardous or poisonous substances, such as gasoline, or they may be able to detect very faint scents others can’t perceive. Because smell is one of the two senses associated with flavor, sensitive children may also be hyper aware of smells associated with food and cooking.

Olfactory seekers may:

  • Actively smell everything, even things with unpleasant odors.

Support seekers by:

  • Encouraging safe smelling of objects, like candles, scented markers, and flowers.

Olfactory avoiders may:

  • Frequently complain about smells that are very faint or unnoticed by others.
  • Hold their noses or gag when encountering strong smells or eating certain foods.

Support avoiders by:

  • Minimizing artificial scents in the home, such as cleaners and air fresheners.
  • Being conscious of strong cooking smells and scents in perfumes, lotions, and soaps.
  • Using a comforting or pleasant scent to “reset” after experiencing a negative odor.

Olfactory discrimination challenges may cause a child to:

  • Be unable to recognize familiar or common smells.
  • Be unable to detect strong chemical or burning smells, though they might have a vague sense that something is wrong.