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sniffing people- how much is OK?

(19 Posts)
Jimjams Sun 19-Jun-05 11:40:15

Right- odd question this- but would appreciate thoughts on boundaries.

In general my rules are that things that are socially unacceptle for ds2 are socially unacceptable for ds1 as well. Although he can't/won't necessarily be able to control himself in the same way and we don't expect him to be able to behave as well as ds2 we aim for it, and set the same boundaries iyswim.

On to sniffing people. DS1 sniffs everything now- including people- and its a big dive in - sniff- usually around the chest. out and about in public no problem- I pull him away, apologise and say something like "no sniffing".

Problem is he's non-verbal and I've been reading a lot about language representation in the brain pre-language recently and it is likely that a lot of his understanding of the world will be coming from smell. Soooo how much sniffing do I allow him to do at home? I don't mind him sniffing me, and friend's don't seem to mind - we only see one person who doesn't have an autistic kid anyway so they;re used to od behaviour (although the time he sniffed a friend's crotch I had to pull him off pretty quickly.). But its not like I can even set an "in the house OK, outside not OK" rule as he'll still sniff the gas meter reader or whatever.

He doesn't have the understanding for social stories, but I am loathe to ban it entirely as everything I have read recently would suggest it would be like making him walk around blindfolded, which of course would whack up the anxiety levels and then we'd be dealing with who knows what. It seems to driven I;m not sure I could ban it anyway- I'd just be able to leap in and drag him off (which I tend to do anyway when its non family being sniffed).

So do I sit it out and hope he gets the processing he needs from this stage and moves on? It's definitely not a stim- he is doing it to process people etc and make sens of the world I think.

HappyHuggy Sun 19-Jun-05 12:05:49


ScummyMummy Sun 19-Jun-05 12:09:52

I'd ignore it unless it's a completely socially unacceptable situation like a stranger outdoors or a crotch. Your reasoning sounds spot on to me. What do school think?

Jimjams Sun 19-Jun-05 12:16:52

I forgot to ask school at the annual review. His teacher always makes a point of coming right up close to my face (about a cm- if that- away) and staring into my eyes grinning madly in the way ds1 does to them. They don't mind that except when the glint in his eye suggstes a super fast pinch is on its way.

thinking about it that's pretty socially unacceptable as well- although he only does that to people he's very comfortable with so I hadn't registered that one.

I've been thinking about the sniffing as we had a brilliant walk last week (over 2 hours) which went really well except for one sudden lunge and sniff at some poor girl (approx age 8). He was on his harness, I said sorry and we saw the family again a few more times and they were fine, but just got me thinking it could be the sort of thing that could potentially go wrong. The family seemed pretty clued up- but not everyine is iykwim.

ScummyMummy Sun 19-Jun-05 12:28:34

well, any non-clued up bananaheads will just have to learn to put up and shut up imo. It's part of his development and you can't do more than trying to prevent potentially embarrassing public sniffs by distraction and intervening when an inappropriate sniff occurs. If anyone wants to be a w*** about it there's not much you can do either, other than hold your head up high and despise them. Hard though, I imagine.

misdee Sun 19-Jun-05 12:34:41

its better than licking everything jimjams.

KarenThirl Sun 19-Jun-05 15:35:26

J's a sniffer as well, always has been. I remember him sitting on the floor as a baby, with his fingers backwards in his mouth, and rubbing a dirty sock underneath his nose with the other hand. At the time we just thought it was a cute oddity, but as it's developed I've often wondered if it was part of his issues. Feet are a big thing for him, and I've caught him with his head down the toilet smelling his poo (and he always smells his hands when he's been to the toilet).

I've never made too much of a thing of him sniffing people's feet because it's not really that offensive, but like you jimjams I know he won't be able to distinguish between where and when certain behaviours are allowed so I've drawn the line at more personal sniffing. It's a bad habit for him to get into so I'd rather it didn't start in the first place.

Caroline5 Sun 19-Jun-05 16:47:20

dd2 is into feet sniffing/licking/biting too! Most people don't seem to mind so far and it's got worse since everyone's toes have been on show for the summer. There was one woman who looked pretty unimpressed and dd seemed to particularly like her feet - ! I think for her it is more of a stim, I don't think she is processing the people through their feet but I could be wrong...

Agree with scummy (as usual), hopefully on the whole people will be understanding, and if not, they need educating.

Chocol8 Sun 19-Jun-05 17:43:30

Although it is an unconventional way to greet people, I think it's rather lovely (except in the case of the crotch of course).

As Misdee said, it could be licking! My ds has a thing about metal and when he is coaxed into spending his pocket money (which is why he has it in the first place) he worriedly sniffs his hands after and physically shudders. I thought he had an aversion to the metal itself (keys etc) but it is actually the smell.

I suppose you could just say a sentence to those people who objected such as "it's how he knows if you're a nice person or not". ...that would get them thinking!

coppertop Sun 19-Jun-05 18:40:54

With the exception of the crotch-sniffing I'd probably just let him get on with it tbh. I might well think it odd if a child started to sniff at me but a simple "He likes to sniff people/things" would be enough of an explanation for me. He's always with an adult so it's unlikely IMHO that he is going to get any real trouble while doing this.

Jimjams Sun 19-Jun-05 19:16:25

thanks. he sniffed my friend's dad today- he was fine about it.

Big problem today was that he escaped from my friends garden and just ran. For the first time ever I thought he would definitely get to the road before I reached him. Luckily he passed a house with its door on the pavement and he stopped to look at the doorbell and nose through their window. Frightened the living daylights out of me.

I was running holding ds3 (had been feeding him) and my friend was shouting "give me the baby" but I couldn't because then he would defintely have got away in the end my friend changed to screaming "put ds3 on the grass" so had to abandon him foor friend to pick up whilst I went for ds1. nightmare!

happymerryberries Sun 19-Jun-05 19:38:18

I know that it isn't often helpful to compare NT and asd kids, but if it is any help ds is a 'sniffer' as well. He has now stopped sniffing people outside the immediate family. But it is part of his night time kiss. A hug and a sniff and a kiss. most people found it a bit strange but took it in their stride I think.

I wouldn't worry too much JJ as long as you can keep him away from the crotch areas.

maddiemo Sun 19-Jun-05 20:24:41

I would not worry too much. If he sniffs people when out, being on a harness should tell them that he has needs. If not on harness a quick apology and say he has learning difficulties, I find people find that easier to accept than saying a child is autistic.

Hopefully it is a phase, a sniff must tell him something he needs to know. I also think you are right about stopping it increasing aniexty.

My autistic ds has never been a big sniffer but ds4 smells everything. We had some kids in the paddling pool and they had chucked their clothes on the floor. Ds4 found his pants by sniffing each pair, he also like to smell chairs when people get off of them.

edam Sun 19-Jun-05 20:50:19

Jimjams, as a bystander here, if a child I didn't know came up to me in the street and sniffed me I'd be a bit startled but would be happy with a quick explanation. It's not something I'd be aware of normally so I wouldn't have a clue what was going on otherwise.

YogiYahooey Sun 19-Jun-05 20:55:19

I agree with Edam, most people are happy with a quick explanation otherwise refer to scummymummy!My ds2 used to do a bit of 'sniffing' but has stopped now, I am not sure that I helped doing doggy sniff impressions - yes I do pretend to be a dog on occasion - but it sure makes the kiddies laugh!

Jimjams Sun 19-Jun-05 21:03:51

Ah well you've made me feel better. The little girl who was sniffed was very good and I could tell her parents knew something was going on. I didn't get as far as using the a word as he went from sniffing to pretending to jump off the cliff into a raging torrent (don't ask- no theory of mind?- my arse!)

HMB - everything I've heard about your son (and your tantrumy dd come to that- don't take that the wrong way!) means that I HAVE to meet you some time. We were thinking of heading to Wales in our campervan this year but perhaps we should head in your diirection (it's ok you're too far -not that brave yet- you're safe!)

happymerryberries Mon 20-Jun-05 06:44:32

Jimjams, I know that mine are NT but definately not 'average'!

Great fun but not 'normal', that my kids.

I've had a fair share of withering glances in supermarkets etc so I have, i think, the tiniest insight into the crap you have to deal with.

And I think this wil amuse you further. When I was little I would only speak to people outside the family on alternate days! Is it any wonder I have the kids I do?

Fio2 Mon 20-Jun-05 07:54:12

I would let him sniff away too

happymerryberries Mon 20-Jun-05 16:07:20

Oh, and there are some people that ds always growls at!

He used to growl at everyone, but has now cut it down to just a few friends of his sisters who growl back at him!

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