Olfactory Activities for Kids with Autism

Olfaction is the perception of smell which is processed by the olfactory system. In children with autism, some seek for the smell sense (HYPO) whereas others avoid the smell (HYPER). Children with autism don’t need to be hyposensitive or hypersensitive towards the sense of smell. In order to make sure, a detailed sensory assessment should be done by an Occupational Therapist. After gathering the information, the child is subjected to systematic desensitization therapy where the child’s problem is addressed in a step by step manner. Meantime, the below-mentioned suggestions can be applied and practiced at home.  


Children who are hyposensitivity towards the smell tend to smell everything that they get and mostly prefer to have something in their hand always so that they can smell all the time.

  • Odors like lemon, mint, curry leaves, rosemary, basil, etc. are stronger and can be provided to the child.
  • Flowers like rose, vanilla, lavender can be provided.
  • Fruits and spices like cinnamon can be used.
  • Scented play-doh.
  • Lemon flavored hand sanitizer.
  • Scented eraser.
  • Scented pen.
  • Scented room fresher.
  • Scented soap.
  • Scented lotions.
  • Involve the child during cooking.
  • Using non-irritant body perfumes.


Children who are hypersensitive to smell tend to avoid food, object, activity, environment (and/or rooms) and people as well. They easily notice the smell before others do and gets distracted. For these kids, the smell appears to be strong and irritating for them and may cause nausea and vomiting.

Few suggestions to help these children are:

  • Make sure the environment is clean and tidy.
  • Fragrance-free cleaners are used to clean the room and objects.
  • Make sure the trash bins are kept apart from the kid (at home and school).
  • Sufficiently ventilated room is preferred for children who are hypersensitive to smell.
  • Teach the child to close their nose with a handkerchief or tissue when they are unable to tolerate the smell.
  • Avoid using perfumes.
  • Avoid foods that irritate the child and never force them until the child is exposed to therapy.

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