Our Secret Weapon

We have a new secret weapon in our arsenal —  chewing gum.

It is so simple, so brilliant, so easy!  The mom of a child with aspergers passed the advice to me and I want to shout it from the rooftops.  Whenever G gets into that antsy, bouncy frame of mind that usually precedes a meltdown if we can’t leave the current location quickly enough, I give him a piece of sugarfree gum.  The chewing provides some kind of sensory input that settles him right down.  I’ve used it in the grocery store when the checkout line was too long for G and in the mall when he wanted to leave but I had one more errand to accomplish.  He only chews for maybe 10 minutes but the calming effects last another 20-30 minutes.  His strict adheranceto rules works in our favor and once we explained the rules of chewing gum we have never had a problem with him swallowing the gum or disposing of it anywhere but a proper trash can.

This past weekend was my grandparents 60th anniversary, so our family made another trip to the Denver area.  We drove this time and while G was disappointed that he didn’t get to ride in a plane, I was happier not to deal with security lines.  G did very well at the restaurant this time, although he was a bit hesitant to be around so many strange people.  DH and I became adept at body-blocking all the Aunts who wanted to rush up and hug or pinch cheeks.  We sat at the very end of the long table and had his leap pad game and a math workbook to keep him occupied.  At the end of the meal there was a delay in figuring out the check for so many people and G started getting amped up.  We easily could have taken him out to walk around at that point, but instead I reached into my bag and produced a stick of gum.  And voila!  He was cooperative and patient until we were ready to leave.

Such a difference from our last trip to Denver.  We had a very pleasant visit and even managed to take in a Rockies game.  The home team lost, but it was a high scoring game so there was plenty of action for G to take in.  No problems at all with overload from the chaos there because he is very interested in baseball and was focused on the field.  It was a fabulous family outing!

Published in: on June 21, 2008 at 3:25 am  Comments (3)  

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  1. Great solution! As a grown woman on the autistic spectrum (more Aspie when I’m rested, more autistic when I’m tired and/or fighting off an infection), I can honestly say that having an opportunity to engage in repetitive, sensory behavior is very helpful — especially when a meltdown is looming.

    Chewing gum works on multiple levels;

    1. It is rhythmic
    2. It is sensory
    – there is a taste associated with it
    – there is a sound associated with it — the regular rhythm in the ears as the teeth chew the gum
    – there is the sensation of the gum in the mouth that can be focusing and calming
    3. It is socially acceptable (unlike, for example, my clenching and unclenching my fist around a wadded-up piece of tissue or napkin — the rougher the texture, the better. Others don’t realize it’s calming for me — they see the fist and the rhythmic motion, and it frightens some people.)
    4. It’s sugar-free — way important, in my opinion.

    If only I could chew gum! But it sticks to my teeth and dental work — (my enamel is a little thin from brushing so much 😉 So, I have to opt for other things — like my tissue. So, I keep it in my pocket and “stim” out of sight of polite society…

    Whatever works… Sounds like your gum solution is a winner!

    Spread the word!!!

  2. Ahhhh – that makes so much sense! Thank you for explaining. G is 4 (almost 5) so while we can see what works for him, he can’t express to us *why* it is working.

  3. Oh, I wish I could get my son to even try gum. He won’t even try it. It’s too bad, because it sounds like it could help him a lot!

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