Best Holiday Gifts for Kids & Adults on the Autism Spectrum: Shopping Do’s & Don’ts From an Expert by Mary Jane Weiss, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Parents and other loved ones who provide holiday gifts for children with autism spectrum disorders and other intellectual and developmental challenges may or may or may not know that there is special care that can be taken when making gift choices. Those with children or relatives on the spectrum should follow a few guidelines when shopping for their little ones.
The first tip would be to check with the child's parents, who know the child best and can tell you what they like and what they may have an aversion to or what makes them uncomfortable. Often, children with autism have very distinct interests in a certain topic. If this is the case, books and toys that relate to their interests may be a hit, as long as they don't interfere with a child's individual fears or triggers, which could include surprises, loud noises, overly bright colors.
Some children, and even teens, with autism may have difficulty with unexpected events and some sensory experiences, and they sometimes have significant communication challenges that might limit or prevent them from expressing dislikes. Some calming items, like noise machines and lights with tranquil sounds and images, can be enjoyable for some children. Similarly, some individuals with autism like items with weight, like heavy weighted blankets and weighted vests or even a weighted lap dog and weighted stuffed animals.
Other gifts that might be helpful are those that build social skills while engaging in a fun activity. Simple games like Connect 4, memory card games and blocks and LEGOs can be used to teach turn taking skills. In addition, some board games can be excellent at building attention and stamina for social games. Some board games aim to teach or reinforce social skills directly. Examples of these are the Hidden Rules games, What Should I Do Now? and The Socially Speaking Game. There's even something called Social Skills Bingo, which individuals who like bingo might enjoy.
There is a lot of individuality, so it is important to ask the parents/teachers about interests and preferences. With planning, great gifts can bring much joy and some new skills to these learners.
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