Sensing Life

Yesterday I picked some sweet peas from the garden and the smell was so intense, they were beautiful. Those simple flowers had the ability to transport me back to my parents’ garden and at this time of year, there were always pretty, pastel sweet peas in the house. They always had fresh flowers from the garden on the kitchen table and Mum always put a posy of flowers in the spare bedroom when anybody stayed over. It was a nice touch and one that I recently emulated when I put some sweet peas on my mother in laws bedside table when she came to stay. This is probably one of the strongest smells that I associate with my parents.

I have a poor sense of smell generally, I am usually the last to detect a bad smell – a gas leak or an accident by one of the dogs. Joshua can hover around me for some time before I detect that he needs changing, often it is his body language that leads me to investigate, rather than an aroma. So these flowers must have a powerful scent for me to be able to smell them so strongly.

We were warned that Joshua might not be able to see, hear, walk or talk when his brain damage was diagnosed. Nobody mentioned anything about his ability to smell and I am not sure how that would be tested either and it is not that important, he can function perfectly well without a sense of smell. I think that Joshua makes the most of most of his senses:


Music has always been so integral to Joshua’s life, even from being a small baby, music would soothe him if he was crying. I spent hours dancing around the lounge with him with loud music playing and still that compilation CD takes me back to those dances in the wee small hours. As a young child whenever we went our to a café or restaurant, the first thing that he would do would be to seek out the speakers and stand beneath them so that he could be close to any music. Even now that he is 21, he seems to need to chill out on his own listening to The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony on a daily basis. My husband read an article somewhere that suggested that certain beats in music calm the brain and so are good for epileptics, so perhaps he is self-medicating.


Joshua enjoys his food and there are few dishes that he will not eat, which is very helpful, although of course he has his favourites. Recently Joshua has developed the vocabulary to request his favourite snacks : crisps, chocolate, jellies, apple, ‘Bix’, cake and toast! He runs through them all during the course of the day, although he requests apple least of any of those and favours the salty or sweet snacks. Sometimes he really wants to eat these things but other times, he uses it as an attention-seeking ploy as it puts the focus onto him.


Joshua has never really enjoyed sensory play as a child and even now, he does not like sticky things on his hands and presents them to be clean. He will feed himself chips for instance, does not like any that are wet with tomato ketchup.. At school he was encouraged to put his hands in sand, flour and playdoh to experience the range of textures, but it was only really water that he liked to feel.


We know that Joshua can see but we also know that the messages from his eyes to his brain do not work properly, they were affected by his stroke. So he has damaged peripheral vision and has a blindspot to his right hand side. But over the years he has adapted well and he rarely trips over things that fall within that blind spot. As he has known no different, Joshua sees well enough to function and many people would not know that he has a visual impairment.

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