Scientists have discovered that a simple sniff test could lend valuable clues about autistic tendencies in children.
It is a no-brainer. The majority of human beings would rather inhale the beautiful fragrance of a bunch of fresh red roses than the disgusting stench of a pile of rotting fish. But it seems that those children suffering from autism are not able to differentiate to a great extent between the two diametrically opposed odors.
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Over three dozen children were tested and the results were quite conclusive. Those afflicted with autism were treating the two smells, one good and the other bad, in a manner which failed to discriminate between them.
This is news indeed. For one thing, it could lend extra clues about how the sense of smell functions radically differently in autistic children. Autism is a malady that leads to such psychological complexes as mutism and extreme introversion not to mention isolation and loss of responses to the environment.
The children who are autistic tend to withdraw into themselves and do not have any friends and can hardly carry out day to day functions. Furthermore, their behavioral repertoire and language skills suffer immensely in the process.
On a worldwide level, one person in 160 suffers from autism. Children only begin to show the lack of normality when they reach the age of two. The experiment had a tube introduce various odors up the nostrils of autistic and normal kids.
Their breathing patterns were recorded too. Autistic children didn’t show any difference in their responses to perfumes or putrid substances. They took it all in as a matter of course. This is a significant find alright. Thanks to this new test, children with autism could be detected with an accuracy rate that is above 80%.
One of the researchers, PhD student Liron Rozenkrantz, told the BBC, "Children with autism didn't show this modulation at all - they took the same sniff for the smell of shampoo as they did for rotten fish. This is striking and somewhat surprising."
Furthermore, the more advanced the autism was in the children, the more they actually seemed to be impervious to the disgusting and malodorous smells. Parents of children ought to confirm whether their child is autistic or not early on, so that all the necessary medical provisions could be made for them.
Since the sniff test did not require the children to communicate back their responses in a linguistic manner, it could be employed at an early age. It was thus ideal for autism detection. However, there is one small hitch which has cropped up along the way.
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We do not know when the olfactory response becomes active in children. If the response of equal interest in flowers and foul fish actually shows that the kid cannot smell properly at that delicate and tender age, than it is back to the drawing board for the researchers.