With the holiday season upon us, it’s time to think about gifts and when it comes to buying gifts for a child who has autism, it can get really challenging trying to figure out the best options. If they are obsessively interested in something , chances are that all the gifts they get end up being only of a particular kind. If they do not really have much of an interest in anything at all, like my son is, then we are left wondering what to get.
After a few years of walking up and down the toy aisles and browsing tons of sensory stores websites I think I have come up with a list that might help a few of you out there.
If your child has autism , it’s highly likely that he has few to none friends. Pets , even if they are not therapy dogs, can be such a great gift for someone who is lonely and needs a playmate. They can also be a great emotional support. Besides, they are cuddly and furry and cute. Do you need more reasons? Your local pet store might be already running an adoption event for you to find your special friend.
who doesn’t like fidgets ? It’s the best way to destress and for kids on the spectrum, almost an inseparable part of them. Spinners, fidget cubes, slinky, marble in a tube, chain fidgets, tangles, roller chain fidget, stretchy strings, pencil fidgets…the list goes on. I bet they would be excited to unwrap this gift and you would be their instant favorite !
Sensory Kits –
this is hours of fun right there. Sensory kits can be such an awesome gift when it comes to children on the spectrum and those with Sensory Processing Disorder. There are a ton of options to choose from – visual, oral, tactile and many more. Water beads, moon sand, theraputty, slime ,pin art toy, gel mats, stress balls that come in different shapes and sizes can be very attractive for tactile sensory seekers. Lava lamps, spinning toys, rain tubes, plasma balls, bubble column can be some of the options for visual stimulation , things that vibrate like a vibrating chew toy, chewy tubes that now come in the form of a jewelry are also very popular among kids with autism. A sensory kit with a mix of these toys would make any kid happy.
Movement is another popular activity for autistic kids. They like motion. Think swings, hammock, kids rocking chair, spinning chairs etc. I have hooks inside my house where I can hook in a hammock or hang a swing in so that the winter season does not spoil the fun. There are some fun shaped spinning chairs out there that can serve as a cool cocoon and also provide the movement these kids crave for. For my son, even an office chair that spins or a bar stool provides entertainment. There are some sit and spin toys too that you can get if your child is small. Trampoline and exercise ball is yet another fun gift . OTs use this all the time for different exercises. Bouncing on it while watching TV or when listening to a story can help them shake off the excess energy.
If you are up to it and have the space and the resources for it , a sensory room can be an ultimate gift for your child. Many specialty stores now offer help creating a sensory room with calming lights, padded walls and floors, soft music, swings, sensory toys and the whole nine yard. Sometimes you might be able to get funding to do this as well.
Deep pressure products
Deep pressure can be very calming to people with sensory issues. It provides proprioceptive input that can help kids be more aware of their body in space. Weighted blankets are commonly used to help kids stay asleep, weighted vests, weighted lap pads or weighted stuffed toys have a calming effect when kids are sitting or moving around and need to have a calm body. Body sock, cozy canoe, stretch bands , weighted wristbands are also ways to get deep pressure and can be cool gifts to give . If want to go real crazy, there is also a squeeze machine that a lot of OTs use to give that input they seek but nothing beats a good old bear hug for deep pressure so don’t forget to give that!!
it’s common knowledge now that auditory sensitivity is pretty prevalent among kids with sensory issues. Giving them a good pair of noise cancelling headphones can be something that can be very useful for them. Maybe giving them an iTunes gift card to purchase some calming music to listen on the headphone can be an icing on the cake.
Apps and technology
If you have a tech savvy child who is glued on to his iPad then give him the gift of apps. AutismSpeaks , Autism Parenting Magazine and several other websites offer a list of Autism friendly apps that are especially designed for kids on the spectrum. For non-verbal kids, a communication app like TouchChat or Proloquo can be a great gift. Apps that help in making visual schedule, educational apps meant specially for autistic kids or games that your child has special inclination for can be a few of the app ideas to buy for your child. Another nice gift can be a GPS tracker . It helps them stay safe and communicate with a caregiver in case they are separated or in need.
Although there are a plethora of gifts out there that you can gift to you little one, the most important ones cost nothing at all – your time, your love and your belief in them. Never forget to give plenty of these to them and you will not find them complaining much 🙂