Finding Perfect Gifts for Autistic Children Isn't Difficult
Picking out a special holiday gift for a child on the autism spectrum isn’t difficult if you know what to look for. The trick is to focus less on what you think might be an appropriate gift, and spend a little more time thinking about what the child would actually play with. Autistic children have unique interests like everyone else. Although these interests are generally few, discovering what those interests are and zeroing in on the child’s obsessions is the key to buying a great Christmas present the child will use and enjoy.
Good Xmas Gift Ideas Zero In On Obsessions
Try looking at a holiday gift through the eyes of an autistic child. While it’s impossible to actually get inside of their mind, take a minute and think about how you would feel if most of the gifts you received were items you aren’t interested in or don’t have a use for. Children with autism tend to look at the world literally. Within their ability to reason, everything in their life is either black or white, good or bad. They understand very few shades of gray.
To an autistic child, a gift is either useful, or it’s not. It appeals to their sense of excitement and interest, or it doesn’t. Due to defects in the way their brain handles sensory information, and because familiarity and strict routine is extremely important to them, these children tend to have very few interests at any one time. However, the interests they do have are extremely important to them. So important, that those interests often reach the position of obsession.
To the typical mind, obsession might appear to be a defect that needs to be overcome, but for children on the autism spectrum, total absorption is just the way their mind works. Why spend your money on a Xmas gift the child won’t enjoy? When you use their obsessions rather than fighting against them, the result is a holiday gift that’s cherished rather than tossed aside.
Buy a Holiday Gift the Autistic Child Will Want
Before choosing a Christmas present, sit down and take the time to think about what the child on your list is interested in. For example, a good friend of mine has a 16-year old autistic son. His interests are few: he wears only shorts and tee shirts (even in the winter), plays with his Wii, watches movies on his VCR, and loves everything that involves John Wayne. Recently, he’s begun showing an interest in cars, but that’s it.
If you are not familiar with the special-needs child on your Christmas gift list, then do not buy a holiday gift until you have contacted the parents. While you may feel uncomfortable doing that, the parents of autistic children are more than willing to fill you in on what their child is particularly fond of. Odds are, the gifts the family will be buying themselves will also center on that very same interest. Many parents of autistic children have no trouble being extremely vocal about what to buy, but often what they request just doesn’t feel right to a typical mind.
Toys for Autistic Children Not Always Typical Christmas Presents
Toys for autistic children can be different then what you might expect. They won’t always be typical Xmas gift ideas. Although there are many online resources for suitable holiday toys that can help parents improve the child’s sensory integration problems, help with home-education goals and developmental therapy, or improve the child’s independent self-care skills, a holiday gift shouldn’t always be about self-improvement.
Christmas should be fun and enjoyable. To make that possible for the child on your list, some of the questions to ask before you make a final decision might be:
- Does the autistic child have any obsessions?
- What special movie or cartoon character is he or she focused on?
- Is the child interested in music and musical toys?
- What is he or she fascinated with?
- What type of toys does that child currently play with?
A mother on one of the autism forums reported that her little boy is focused on Starbucks Coffee. He absolutely is fascinated with Starbucks. Rather than trying to divert his interest to something more childlike, they bought him a toy coffee maker, a Starbucks tee shirt, and a Starbucks coffee cup, among other things for Christmas. While that isn’t your typical Xmas gift idea, those items are what will make that child happy.
Since I knew that my friend’s autistic son always decorates his bedroom with items pertaining to John Wayne, a couple of years ago I went online searching for John Wayne posters and memorabilia. There were a lot of different pictures to choose from, but I didn’t know what his favorite John Wayne movie was. Before making the final choice, I called the mother to find out. I decided to go with a classic picture and put it in a decorative frame that he could hang on his wall or sit on the top of his dresser.
Of all of the Christmas presents he received that year, that simple picture of John Wayne was his favorite. He still has it, and it’s still his favorite decoration, so don’t try to outthink this. When it comes to autistic children, it isn’t about buying something a typical child would want. It isn’t even about keeping up with the latest trend or fad. It’s about appealing to their special, unique personality and showing them that you care.
Additional Christmas Gift Ideas
Some of the interests of children with special needs can be quite surprising, but many autistic children also enjoy standard toys and activities:
- picture books that cater to their interests
- musical instruments
- video games
- toys that make noise
- bath toys
- colorful blocks
- lego sets
- soft dolls
- stuffed animals
- crayons and color books
- toy trucks or cars
Computer games and other related items also appeal to many children with autism. Weighted jackets, weighted blankets, and super-soft clothing with no seams make them feel good. Toys they can sit on and spin help those who need additional sensory stimulation. Teenage boys who are interested in cars might like a basic how-to book with tons of pictures that show him how a car works.
But like any other child, what one absolutely loves another will find boring or too difficult to handle. Autistic children often have trouble dealing with uncomfortable feelings. That can cause them to scream, throw toys, or run from the room when confronted with an emotional situation such as a toy that squeaks or hums. It can literally drive them crazy to wear a pair of scratchy jeans. Think about how you feel when someone runs their fingernails down a chalkboard. That's what it's like for an autistic child with sensory issues.
Finding good autism ideas for those on your Christmas gift list is only difficult when you try to step outside of their box, as the following video shows.
Recommended Toys for Children with Autism
What You Can Buy at Toys R Us
Whether a child is obsessed with piggy banks, Tinker Bell, glow sticks, flowers, or John Wayne, thinking that indulging in their obsessions is a waste of money is forgetting that all kids deserve to have fun on Christmas. If you pay attention to what the child with autism spectrum disorder wants and listen to the parents no matter how “off” their request sounds, you can make a little Christmas magic happen for that special someone.