When something goes wrong in our bodies, they immediately react to signal our brains that there are aspects that must be taken care of. For instance, children with autism spectrum disorder have a high sensitivity to sight, sound and touch. They seem to perceive more and beyond the common things that the naked eye of common, healthy people can see.
A study recently performed on a large number of patients reveals that children with autism experience smells extremely differently, compared to children who are not exposed to the affection.
The research revealed the results as children were subjected to to a device known as an olfactometer, which exhaled different scents through a small tube that perfectly fitted into nostrils. The olfactometer was also designed with another tubular shaped device, to measure how much air kids were capable of taking in.
Typically developed children were inclined to linger more on the scent-filled tubes in cases of pleasant smells such as roses and they took shorter sniffs for the bad smells such as rotten fish. The average difference in breathing was one third of a second of being exposed to the scent.
Children with autism spent symmetrical amounts of time no matter the odors, whether pleasantly smelling roses or gruesomely scented rotten fish.
The study was performed on 36 children and from the total number, 18 were diagnosed with autism. They were equally exposed to alternating smells, from the most pleasant to the highly unpleasant ones. Autistic children are inclined to offer equal importance to both ranges of scents, restraining their rejection reaction when faced with bad smells such as sour milk or the previously mentioned rotten fish.
This study revealed a simple way in which children can be tested. Of course a clear diagnosis needs more serious analysis but common people have a starting point that could lead to more important findings.
Researchers didn’t manage to conclude whether children with autism did not have a sniff response because they did not perceive odors the same way the other group of children did or simply because they were not able to control their sniffing behavior.
The study may be revealing of a clue leading to autism but it is highly difficult to study smelling behavior in autistic children, as test more often than not ask them to describe odors through language, although difficulty in communicating is a hallmark of autism. A simple test could detect autism but maybe the sniffing one is simply not enough.
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