Aromatherapy as Part of Sensory Stimulation Therapy for Autism

There has been a lot of research of late into the beneficial effects of sensory stimulation for autistic children. Parents are encouraged to stimulate their children’s senses at home where they are comfortable, and to engage multiple senses at a time to allow their child’s brain to build connections across different modes of input. Aromatherapy is possibly the easiest way to add a new sensory layer to any activity, and one of the most effective.

One of the reasons aromatherapy is so effective is the close connection between smell and memory. Associating certain activities, images, or feelings with a certain smell helps the brain to build connections and file away other sensory data. We are all aware of the impact of walking into a house that smells of freshly baked cookies (as are real estate agents across the globe). It doesn’t matter who’s house it is or where the house is located, the sensory memory of freshly baked cookies tells us it is appropriate to feel welcome, comfortable, and at home. Using this same principal can help children with autism trigger different feelings and behaviors.

Aromatherapy can add certain ‘medicinal’ benefits specific to the scents being proffered. While some may consider this aspect to be hocus-pocus, Eastern medicine has credited certain fragrances, generally via essential oils, with healing powers that may be just help autistic children feel better for centuries. Some suggestions include frankincense to stimulate the limbic system, cedarwood to calm and purify, and lavender to calm and relax the nervous system.

Another reason aromatherapy is so widely used in autistic sensory therapies is just how easy it is to incorporate. A gentle massage using aromatic oils can be a great way to relax your child while engaging their senses of smell and touch simultaneously. Use an oil diffuser, available in myriad shapes and forms, to deliver the scent on its own or dab different oils onto fabrics with different textures and patterns to engage multiple senses at the same time. You can even add essential oils to bath water or spray on bedding to encourage relaxation at bedtime.aromatherap

Aromatherapy is just one more way parents and teachers can engage children with autistim spectrum disorders and help build connections between senses and helps children to relax while working on their social and motor skills.

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One Comment

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