Sofia’s world is largely a dark and silent one. As a blind and deaf child of 9, her sense of smell is one of the few means by which she can interpret the landscape. And what she is smelling today, on a small, laminated square, is the seaside. The ozonic scent of salty air, wet sand, seaweed and ocean spray has been replicated and impregnated on to a scrap of paper.
— From Communicating with children using smells at the UK Times Online.
Thank you, Robin, for posting this. I read the whole article and it made me cry. I tend to think of scent as enhancing life, my personal indulgence; for these children, it has become their tether to the world. This shows remarkable creativity on the part of the teachers of such profoundly disabled children, who have figured out one way to communicate with them, which may lead to others. It also shows a deep kindness on the part of the perfumer (Kate Williams) and the company, (PZ Cussons). Better to light a single candle than sit and curse the dark.
Yes, isn’t that a nice story? And we get so few of them.
Very interesting, Robin…thanks so much for posting.
De nada! We should thank Carol Midgley, who wrote it.
I love the way they spoke of scent as a language (which it most definitely is) and the way they are using scent to help the children orient themselves in space and time. Using scent to mark time is actually an ancient custom. In Asia, they used to use incense coils that were designed to burn down to a new scent at marked periods of time — I believe they were used partly for study and meditation, the way Western monks used bells.
And meant to say — will pass this on to a friend who works with multiply disabled people. She knows about my interest, but we’ve never talked about how it might apply to her work.
Oh, if she finds it helpful in developing something, do let us know!
Thank you for posting this Robin, what a wonderful piece.
Nice way to start the day. Thanks, Robin. I’m going to share that with others I know who work with children and disability issues.
If that isn’t a story to take me out of my own narrow concerns, I don’t know what is. Thanks for posting the link.
Ditto…how humbling. Thanks, Robin!
A little wake up call never hurts, does it? Sending all thanks to the author of the article
Carol, if you are reading this; Kudos for a beautiful article and ditto to you Robin for posting it. A lot of people don’t realize the importance of what they have until it’s gone. A piece of humble pie for everyone.
What a great article, and what a terrific program… It brought to mind that scene in “The Miracle Worker” where Helen Keller’s teacher brings her to the well and pumps water into her hands, only this time they’re using the sense of smell instead of touch to communicate.
funny, sense of smell is the one sense that is so unstudied…the one we understand the least and yet has the most profound effect on us although we are unaware of the fact…it is a hidden mystery..
smelling the breath of a baby…and even my 5 year old when he is sleeping is like smelling heaven..it is so pure and perfect…i connect it to the study of the old testament where G-d “breathes” life into an inanimate body…ie the soul…i am always deeply touched and grateful when we can let go of our egos and see and care for others…thanks robin for doing one like this…have a great weekend everbody
You have a wonderful weekend too!
(And my 11 year old still smells wonderful sleeping: boy smell)
Being blind, I have often relied on my remaining and extremely sharp senses for many things that I’m not able to determine with sight. I’m often the first to smell when something’s on the verge of going over in the fridge before there are visual signs and have noted a change in my children’s breath that indicates they’re getting sick.
Loving perfume just seems like a natural fit for me. I can appreciate the feel of the bottles, the heft of them and most importantly, what’s in them as much as anyone else. Perfume and music have been passions of mine ever since I lost the bulk of my sight as a child.
This story spoke to me alsoas a parent of Autistic children. My older son, Liam, is very prone to sensory overload, but one of his favorite things to do is come over to me, climb up in my lap, and smell my neck. It’s one of the most frequent ways I engage him in conversation. I’ll ask him what I smell like and he comes up with the most interesting replies. “A ballerina.” when I’m wearing LOTV, “Halloween” when I’m wearing something foody. Or “like winter” when I’m wearing lavender.
Scent has given me a peek inside my lil one’s head, given him a way to remember people that’s really quite accurate most times, and also a way for us to communicate on a topic he finds fascinating. All three of my children love smells since I’m fond of candles, incense and other “smelly” items for bath, body and home. But it has been interesting watching how Liam just blossoms around familiar or unfamiliar smells from people and places. It is a little awkward when he runs over to smell someone he doesn’t know, but it also indicates a curiosity and love of life we don’t often see in him, as well as a way for him to interact with unfamiliar situations that allows him to go at his own pace.
Oh, I love Liam’s answers! How old is he? And you’re the 2nd perfumista parent of an autistic child that’s mentioned how important smell is, and how interested the child is in perfume.
Liam’s seven and has a twin sister, Ivy, who’s a little perfumista in training and adores Insolence. I also have a three-year-old who thinks all perfumes smell “cool and beautiful.” Ah the innocence of childhood. lol It’s a good thing for my budget that I don’t feel the same way.
You are lucky…my son finds almost all perfumes disgusting. My husband is not interested either.