Scent of a Pudding
As far as we know, Pudding wasn’t able to smell things for a long time. As with many of her senses, she was hypo-reactive to smell. I didn’t know this for a long time, because how do you know if a small child can smell or not if they aren’t able to tell you? Also, Pudding would frequently call things “stinky”, so I assumed, as I was wont to do back then, that there was no problem with her olfactory sense.
Mr. Hindsight (that smug old detective who goes around solving problems too late to be of use to anyone ) informed me that Pudding was using visual or auditory clues to identify when to use the term stinky, it had nothing to do with actually smelling anything bad. For instance, a foul diaper (nappy) hidden away in a trash can would go unnoticed by Pudding, but if she saw her brother being changed, she would correctly identify it as a stinky one.
When a child is hyper or overreacts to smell, it is pretty obvious. They’ll be disturbed by strong odours, and can even become physically sick when in the presence of an odour that is too strong. When the child’s sensory perception presents like Pudding’s, it is harder to tell. Kids who are unable to smell may lick or taste objects, but then they could be doing that for other reasons too. Sometimes those who are under-responsive to smell go around sniffing objects and people. That wasn’t our girl, so we figured we’d got away with one of her senses behaving reasonably normally.
I got some flowers for Mother’s Day, and Pudding asked to smell them. She pressed her nose deep into the petals and inhaled for several seconds. She was starting to smell. Every time I cooked I’d offer her a sniff of a fruit or vegetable. She likes to smell hot drinks, maybe because the steam adds an extra sensation for our girl. She has slowly begun to identify scents without visual cues, like stating that a restaurant smells like pizza. Now she gives her own descriptions, like a product smells “like babies.”
She still isn’t able to identify many precise smells, even strong ones like lemon, but she is getting there. For me it is almost tangible proof that connections are being made in her brain. To simplify things to a point that I can understand them, it feels like her sense of smell has been turned on, and is slowly working its way up to full power. I’m curious as to what will happen next. Will her sense of smell begin to function properly, or will we see more problems with modulation: sometimes seeking smells, sometimes being overwhelmed by them?
Right now, of all her senses, this is the least problematic. She asks to smell food items, and if she likes it, she’ll have a taste. So far, so typical. She isn’t going around smelling people (yet) and is able to go to places with strong odours. When I was pregnant with her, I went through the classic phase of overreacting to certain smells. I couldn’t go down the coffee aisle in a supermarket, and I’d feel sick at the burger smell as I walked past fast food restaurants. So far, we aren’t seeing anything like that in Pudding.
But I would still say there is something out of the ordinary about her sense of smell. One morning last week I woke up to Pudding….how shall I put this? Making her own fragrant sounds and smells. I asked her if she wanted to go to the bathroom, but she declined with a giggle. She continued with her funky music-making.
Me: Please go to the bathroom, it is stinky.
Pudding: No Mummy, it’s not stinky. My trumps smell like flowers!
Sometimes I’m envious of her sensory dysfunction. No matter how much I breathed in the odor, my nose never could detect those floral notes that are the signature scent of a Pudding!