Working with children with special needs can be confusing and exhausting, but many people have had great success with essential oils. There are some important strategies for introducing these children to essential oils though, especially if they have sensory issues.
Firstly, let the child choose their favourite oil. Allow them to open the bottles and smell them, then select which one is their favourite. It's very possible they won't choose the one with the specific benefits you were hoping they would, but that's okay for two reasons. The first is is that you are introducing them to the idea of scents and oils and they may become more adventurous with time as they get happier with the idea of allowing you to use it. Allowing a child with autism, for example, to choose their own oils helps them to feel in control and will make them more receptive to regular use.
The second is that whilst you might be looking for something to relieve anger, they might choose something that helps with sleep patterns. It could well be that your child's anger is related to tiredness from disturbed sleep that you hadn't even noticed. Children with ADHD for example have very disturbed sleep which has a knock on effect on their behaviours during waking hours too.
There are several ways to use essential oils, but my top two for children with special needs would be diffusing and roller ball. Both of these require minimal touch from you.
Diffusing can be done, either with a diffuser, or by applying a few drops to a favourite teddy or special blanket. This works particularly well with small children who snuggle into their teddies at night. A diffuser also works well at night with children because they stay in one place and inhale it, rather than flitting from room to room.
In a two year case study (1999-2001) Dr Terry Freidmann M.D. tested the effects of essential oils by inhalation or diffusing only on children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.
For 30 days the children had diffusers in their bedrooms and the results showed that the children's brain waves settled back into the patterns of neurotypical children, increased their scholastic performance and behavioural patterns. The final results on performance were:
Lavender - 5%,
Cedarwood - 83% and
Vetiver - 100% improvement.
The other method I recommend is to use a roller ball to apply oils directly to the skin, either on the feet or the neck. The skin on the feet has large pores and oils get directly into the blood stream quickly, and the skin on the neck is thin. The great thing about a rollerball is that the child can usually manage to apply it themselves, without spilling, which allows them more feeling of ownership and control over how much is applied and when.
Below are a list of some oils and blends which you may find useful to use with children with special needs:
Peppermint - increases oxygen, energy and focus
Lime - Mood enhacing, calming, anxiety, stress
Bergamot - calming, anxiety, stress,
Vetiver - night terrors, restlessness, emotional balance,
Cedarwood - Anger, anxiety, relaxtion, sleep, soothing, sedative, anti-spasmodic
Wild Orange - Anti-depressant, calming, insomnia, stress
Lavender - calming, stress relief, sleep, anxiety, insomnia
Clary Sage - calming, stress relief, sleep, insomnia, mood swings, nervous disorder, depression, Epilepsy
Roman Chamomile - calming, stress relief, sleep, anxiety, depression
You'll notice that there is a lot of overlap between the oils, sometimes people have an emotional bond to a smell, (for example, if you smelled rosemary whilst grieving it may always remind you of that grief) and your child is no different. If they do not like one of the oils, try a different one. Children with sensory issues are particularly susceptible to emotional bonding with fragrance. This can be used to our advantage as well though, bonding a child to an essential oil which you can introduce when they are in distress can help to break the pattern of behavior.
Children with autism, for example, are thought to 'stim' because they are overwhelmed by something. The 'stimming' or self-stimulating behaviors (such as banging ears or rocking) are thought to be a way of them attempting to shut out the other sense that is offending them. By bonding the child emotionally to a specific oil, e.g. using it regularly in calm, happy, loving moments, for a few months, it then become are powerful tool to overwhelm the child's senses when they are struggling.
In essence, we help the child to block out one sensation and remove the need for self-destructive stimulation behaviors. You can carry a small amount of oil easily in a spray bottle in your handbag. If the child begins to stim or you sense a melt down coming, simply spray it on the front of their t-shirt for them to inhale, or for children who are tactile, spray it onto your neck and give them a cuddle.
Aromatherapy is surprisingly powerful, even when only inhaled, so if the child does not want you to put oils on their skin, never force it, particularly when they are stressed. Simply put it somewhere they will inhale it.
Here are a few blends that other parents have had success with in particular with children with special needs, which you might like to try if you are feeling more adventurous. Essential oils are synergistic, which means that one oil aids the performance of another, so blends can be more powerful than single oils. Try mixing these recipes up to add to a diffuser, or your favourite carrier oil to apply topically.
ADHD Relief ADHD Relief 2
10 drops of Lime 10 drops vetiver
10 drops of vetiver 15 drops frankincense
10 drops roman chamomile
30 drops lavender Hibernation Blend
35 drops vetiver 20 drops roman chamomile
20 drops frankincense 20 drops frankincense
15 drops clary sage 15 drops Bergamot
10 drops marjoram 10 drops vertiver
Happy Blend Pick Me Up
10 drops lemon 10 drops wild orange
10 drops lime 10 drops peppermint
10 drops bergamot
10 drops grapefruit
10 drops orange
Ready-made oil blends (already diluted for topical use) that I've found particularly useful are:
Peace - Vetiver Root, Lavender Flower, Ylang Ylang Flower, Frankincense Resin, Clary Sage Flower, Marjoram Leaf, Labdanum Twig Absolute, Spearmint Herb.
Console - Frankincense Resin, Patchouli Leaf, Ylang Ylang Flower, Labdanum Leaf/Stalk, Amyris Bark, Sandalwood Wood, Rose Flower, Osmanthus Flower.
Forgive - Spruce Leaf, Bergamot Peel, Juniper Berry Fruit, Myrrh Resin, Arborvitae Wood, Nootka Tree Wood, Thyme Leaf, Citronella Herb
Serenity - Lavender Flower, Cedarwood, Ho Wood Leaf, Ylang Ylang Flower, Marjoram Leaf, Roman Chamomile Flower, Vetiver Root, Vanilla Bean Absolute, Hawaiian Sandalwood
Motivate - Peppermint, Clementine, Coriander, Basil, Yuzu, Melissa, Rosemary Leaf, Vanilla Bean Absolute
ADHD Natural Solutions Podcast
Check out this wonderful testimonial from this beautiful young boy and his mum about using essential oils to support his school work.
Top Ten Recommended Oils for Neurodiverse Kids
Also known as olibanum, frankincense oil is taken from the resin of the Boswellia Carteri, or Boswellia Sacra tree, that grows in Somalia.Research has shown it can help boost the immune system.For children with autism or ADHD, frankincense oil benefits include helping them stay focused. It is known to reduce stress reactions and negative emotions.
Vetiver oil is obtained through the steam distillation of the roots of the vetiver plant (Chrysopogon zizanioides), a perennial grass native to India.In 2001, a study conducted by Dr. Terry Friedmann revealed vetiver essential oil might be beneficial in supporting those with ADHD, one of the most frequently diagnosed disorders in young children and teenagers.The oil’s relaxing and calming properties are said to help children combat symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, being distracted, and impatience.
Known for its woodsy and sweet smell, sandalwood oil is derived from the mature roots of the sandalwood tree through steam distillation. The more mature the tree is, the more potent the extracted essential oil would be.One of the major sandalwood oil benefits is it helps mental clarity, especially when used with a diffuser. It has a relaxing and calming effect that can be effective for children with autism spectrum disorders.
Like sandalwood and vetiver essential oils, cedarwood oil is extracted by steam-distilling pieces of the cedar wood tree. Major components of this essential oil include alpha-cedrene, beta-cedrene, cedrol, widdrol, and thujopsene.It has calming and relaxing properties; its scent promotes the release of serotonin, which can then be converted into melatonin in the brain.
Throughout the centuries, lavender oil has been used by different civilizations for its medicinal properties.There are many lavender oil benefits. It has a calming effect on children on the autism spectrum and can help improve sleep quality, as well as reduce anxiety and emotional stress. It also promotes self-expression and a desire for communication.
Known to be the sweetest and most calming of all citrus essential oils, it is very mild and contains many healing properties as well as promoting sleep for some neurotypes. It is particularly useful for children because many kids are fond of its citrusy scent. It can help reduce anxiety levels.
Peppermint is perhaps one of the most versatile of all essential oils in the world. It is perfect for children with autism and ADHD because it gives a cooling sensation and has a calming effect on the body. It is known to help improve mental focus.Peppermint can be a 'hot' oil so make sure you dilute it well or switch for rescuer for very sensitive skin.
Ylang ylang essential oil is from the flower petals of the large ylang-ylang tree (Cananga odorata), which is often found in tropical countries. This essential oil is quite popular for its sweet, floral scent. In fact, it is one of the key ingredients of Chanel No. 5! Ylang ylang oil has effective sedative and anti-depressant properties.It has a positive effect on human emotions and can increase the blood flow. It can relieve inflammation and digestive discomfort.
Bergamot essential oil is obtained from the peel of the fruit of the bergamot plant through cold compression.It is often used to reduce pain caused by headaches and muscle tension.Known as an excellent mood enhancer, bergamot can be an exceptional essential oil for autism.It helps create a feeling of joy, freshness, and energy by improving the circulation of blood. Bergamot oil also works as a relaxant as it has a calming effect and can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
For nearly 5,000 years, chamomile has been used to treat various ailments. Whether in tea or oil form, this versatile medicinal herb is rich in antioxidants such as terpenoids and flavonoids. Chamomile essential oil is one of the best when it comes to fighting stress and anxiety.According to a study published on Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine and Pharmacognosy Review, inhaling chamomile promotes relaxation. Chamomile oil has potent anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing abilities. It's in my diffuser every night!
IS THERE AN ESSENTIAL OIL FOR NONVERBAL AUTISM?
At this time, there isn’t a specific recommendation of an essential oil for autism speech or nonverbal children with autism specifically, however, some parents have reported positive results using DDR Prime with a combination of oils that reduce anxiety and produce calm.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ESSENTIAL OILS FOR AUTISM MELTDOWNS?
Parents claim that vetiver, frankincense, and ylang-ylang are the most effective oils in managing emotional outbursts and aggression in children with autism.My personal experience is that balance blend is incredibly useful, but you will need to use a little trial and error to find an oil that works best for each person.
WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL OILS FOR AUTISM STIMMING?
Stimming is a natural expression of oneself and should not be discouraged if the person is 'happy stimming'.If the person is distressed, then the goal is to remove the distress, not simply to prevent the stimming. While essential oils may not stop stimming, oils with calming effects like chamomile, lavender, and peppermint might help reduce the need for stimming.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ESSENTIAL OILS FOR AUTISM AND SLEEP?
Roman chamomile, wild orange, bergamot, sandalwood, and lavender all have relaxing and sedative properties to help aid sleep.
ARE THERE ANY TESTIMONIALS (ASIDE FROM YOURSELF) FOR USING ESSENTIAL OILS FOR AUTISM?
Parents have reported improved sleep and overall behaviour when using essential oils for their children.
In a 2015 article, The Epoch Times interviewed Shannon Coconis, mother to 12-year-old Sam, who was diagnosed with autism. She read about essential oils and autism in an online forum and decided to try it on her son.
Coconis said she didn’t notice any difference for the first month until she ran out and noticed his son’s behaviour became challenging. “All of a sudden he started going crazy. The only thing I could figure was that he didn’t have his oils. We got back to the oils and his behaviour improved,” Coconis said.
Some children with autism have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep. Traditional treatment might involve melatonin supplements. However, some parents use essential oils for autism sleep because it gives them better results. Roman Chamomile oil is the popular oil of choice for improving sleep, even for people who are not on the spectrum.
A 2005 study conducted by Professor Steve Solomons from the University of Birmingham’s special education centre investigated if aromatherapy, which used essential oils, increased shared attention in four children with autism. The study returned positive results, with all children displaying an improvement in shared attention.
Stay-at-home mom and blogger Dyan Robson wrote about using essential oils to help lessen symptoms of autism in her child. She uses her favourite vetiver oil out of all other essential oils for autism aggression and hysteria.
Erika of Living Well Mom, shared her own blend of essential oils for autism recipe—a combination of frankincense, wild orange, and coconut oil—that helps her child with autism calm down when having a meltdown.