Smell and Taste

Sensory struggles are also part of autism

Although the DSM does not list sensory struggles as diagnostic for autism, almost all autistic individuals will have some sort of sensory processing issues.

Eating and feeding issues are common points of discussion and concern on autism parenting forums. Autism is linked to higher incidence of eating disorders, and is linked to struggles to gain or maintain or control weight.

Taste, texture, scent, moisture or fiber content, and more can enter into the difficulties we encounter with food while being autistic. The smell of any item, food or not, can be a stimulus, attractant, or repellant to the point of causing meltdowns or vomiting. The way an item of food feels in our fingers or tastes in our mouth can give delight or cause us to gag and rebel, developing extreme avoidance to keep from encountering certain food experiences again.

Other autistic individuals may be completely unresponsive to taste, texture, smell of items and therefore have no interest in eating or may indiscriminately devour everything presented to them.
Some may go as far as tasting and eating things that usually don’t end up as food because we find the smell and or taste interesting or appealing.
It is not particularly unusual to encounter both aversion and unresponsive reactions to varying food items in one individual.


You may be one of the folks who love to smell anything new that you encounter, smelling the pleasing items over and over, or using scent personally, in candles, oils, sprays, etc etc etc in everyday living, or you may be a person who loves to take a taste of almost everything for the same reasons.
It took a long time for me to recognize that I am one of those who appreciate scent and I savor the experience of including some of my favorites in every day life.

Others are super sensitive to the point of being offended by most scents and will go to lengths to avoid the experience. I still gripe about one toy of my daughter’s when she was quite small, which had a chemical ‘scent’ deliberately added to the vinyl it was made of. I hated that thing!
( this was over 25 years ago). I still have not recovered from my aversion. Again, I experienced extremes in both reactions to scent.

Depending on the individual, our reactions can be “off the charts” in either direction when we experience flavor, taste/ scent, or odor. I don’t know how frequent such reactions are in neurotypical populations. I think sensory processing disorders of scent and taste are probably hardly studied at all.

Senses are often more extreme in the young and we may learn to tolerate or may no longer experience taste and smell in the same way as we grow, develop, and learn to tolerate some experiences. As in all senses, with autism, we will experience extremes more frequently than what is considered typical of the majority of the population.

Now I think I’ll go light one of my favorite scented candles.


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