Children who have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often experience sensory exposures, such as aromatherapy, differently than children who do not have an autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, children with an ASD experience symptoms of anxiety at rates far higher than average. These children are among the most likely to benefit from aromatherapy interventions. However, many children with ASD are more sensitive to sights, sounds, and smells, so routine aromatherapy protocols and standards may be not only ineffective, but also harmful. As a result of this dilemma, there is an urgent need for research and protocols which are specific to the unique needs of this group of children.
Our research team has identified in previous clinical trials that standard aromatherapy solutions for anxiety are not helpful for children with ASD. Over 50% of parents of children with ASD report using complementary and alternative medicine regularly, and up to 88% have tried CAM at some point during their child’s treatment. Despite this frequency, only two clinical trials exist in the scientific literature evaluating the effects of aromatherapy on children with ASD. One of these studies was completed by our research team during an earlier phase of this project.
This 4-year research project began Fall 2016 and is expected to be completed mid-to-late 2020. The total cost of the project is $280,000, which is funded by the Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences and through generous individual donors. The project is 75% funded as of April 2019.