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Boy with autism threatened with suspension over essential oils

A Florida mother went to the media after her son with autism was threatened with suspension because they use essential oils.

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Jessica Kemp’s 5-year-old son, Logan, has autism, and she found that using essential oils such as lavender, sandalwood and chamomile helps her son’s behavior during his school day. She says she was surprised when she got a note from the school advising that her son would be suspended because of the oils.

Using these essential oils is not a new practice for the family — they’ve been using them all year, and they’ve heard only one complaint from a teacher’s aide. Kemp is puzzled as to why this is suddenly such a serious problem that it might have resulted in suspension.

Once the news story initially broke, the district backpedaled and stated that Logan would not be suspended as they worked to find another solution. But Kemp is upset that her attempt to help her son could have led to him being forced to leave the school he loves.

I feel for this mom, and I think it’s wonderful that she feels these essential oils are helping to calm her boy. But it really depends on how strong the smells are — for example, we have a family member who has serious seizures that are triggered by catching even a whiff of essential oils, and for others, strong smells can cause migraines or possibly allergic reactions.

A spokesperson for the school district said she was told the smells are strong, which likely led to the decision to boot the kid out of school. And while I agree there should have been better communication with Kemp and the IEP team they likely have, I can easily see how strong essential oil smells can disrupt a classroom, much like heavy perfume or cologne can.

I’ve seen many people suggest that this child should be homeschooled, but Logan is entitled to a free and appropriate public education, just like all children are in the U.S. If some of his treatment is causing distress for other students and staff, then maybe there is another solution they can come up with so everyone can be safe, educated and happy.

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