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 🙂
We all know how difficult it is for a differently abled individual to navigate the world with its prejudices. There is much to be desired when it comes to acceptance and inclusions. It often makes me nervous thinking about what kind of a world will my son find himself in when he grows up and when I might not be around to be his eyes , ears, and voice. So, in the midst of all the uncertainty, when a child walks in like a breath of fresh air, it gives me hope. Continue reading “When a child gave me hope for a better world for my son”
A few days back, while I was browsing the aisles of a store, my 9 yr old son brushed against another customer. I was hoping it would not be a big deal but she had something else in mind. I said sorry and explained that my son is autistic. She was not ready for that excuse and said that if that’s the case, I shouldn’t “let him loose” and that she has been watching me let him “walk free “!!! My son has a tendency to wander off so I’m hyper-vigilant and ensure that my son is literally at palm’s length from me. So clearly, he was not running amok. Besides, he has issues with personal space so he tends to reach out and touch people who come his way every once in a while. While not many people take offence , there clearly are some who feel extremely overwhelmed by coming in contact with a 9 yr old and make sure they are taken to task for that. Continue reading “This is why I will forgive”
Those who know me think, as a mom of a child with autism, I’m generally positive in my outlook. I would like to believe that is true. However, in me hides a realist–not to be confused with a pessimist. The realist me rears its head every now and then and I kick it back in, hoping it will stay there defeated and quiet. But some days it bounces back with so much strength that it clouds the sunshine in my eyes. Even on those days I listen to it’s whispers, quietly shed a tear, and go on with my life pretending it’s all going to be ok, and it might, but it leaves behind that doubt that lingers on — a doubt that forms a knot in my heart and makes it a little harder for me to breathe. It was one such day when my optimism had to bow down before my realist self.
If you are a parent of a child with special needs – Autism or otherwise, you know that the tug-of-war between the school and the parent is real and stressful. The IEP meeting every year is something all of us dread. You probably attend seminars , ask for ideas in Autism groups online, read various tips and tricks, try talking to a family advocate and gear yourself for the D-day . I’m guessing, the school ,on its part, does a ton of meetings and collaboration to come up with an IEP that they believe is practical and effective. Same goes for almost everything that involves your child and the school. There seems to be a constant back and forth trying to figure out what is best for the child. While every school year is an opportunity for the students to grow, it is also an opportunity for the teachers to learn more about the kids who need that extra attention because of their challenges.
If I was asked what I would want the school to know about my child and Autism in general, this is what I would say:
Before my son’s diagnosis of Autism, I had never even heard about the condition. No one in my family was familiar with it and I knew of nobody who had this diagnosis either. So I started with a blank slate, with absolutely no idea what to do, how to deal with its plethora of challenges , who to reach out to or where to start. I had no clue if what I was doing was right or wrong. Just as my successes were my own, so were my failures. We, as a family, learnt along the way as we experimented with different things. Over the years we’ve perfected a few things or so we think and there are some that we are still trying to figure out . Continue reading “8 mistakes I made as a mom of an autisic child”
I stood in the middle of my son’s classroom , watching all his classmates confident and excited ,dressed as their favorite people from history. There were scientists, presidents, baseball players, civil rights activists and many more. Continue reading “The conflict within”
Like many autistic kids, my son has poor fine motor skills and it affects his everyday life a great deal. Getting into occupational therapy has been nothing short of a feat. Continue reading “The mommy therapist”
It was a usual start of the day – the 3rd day of sleepless night for my son and me, the struggles with brushing his teeth, the challenges with his breakfast and finally helping him dress and get ready for school. Nothing new about it.
The other day I was talking to a complete stranger at my son’s summer camp’s bus stop. We chatted like old friends meeting after years.There is something that bonds us all together…the experiences, the pain, the joy ,and the lessons. There is so much to share. We finally parted, promising a lunch date along with some spa time…knowing well, it was easier said than done 🙂
On my way back, I thought… I was never the kind of person to just approach someone and start talking. I preferred the comfort of familiarity. And today, here I was, chatting with someone I had never met and feeling the most at ease about it. It got me thinking – my son’s diagnosis of Autism has changed me as a person. It was time I gave Autism it’s due. Continue reading “How my son’s autism changed me”
I’m not a supermom but I get that a lot. Having a child with Autism does not make me one. Please let me be weak and let me cry, let me make mistakes, let my guard down, and let me just be a mom, a wife ,a woman, not a “super-someone”.
The day Vedant was diagnosed with Autism, life handed me a cape and said “now you fight and never stop doing so”. But there are days when I’m exhausted. I want to simply kneel down and wish that never again should a mom have to fight for what is rightly her child’s and hope that the world will be more sensitive to any child who has challenges. Continue reading “I’m not a supermom”