In our house, the holiday toy-fest is coming to a close, as Hanukkah is approaching its final nights. While Fiona made it very clear what she wanted this year (several lists, circled items in the Toys R Us catalog, and constant verbal reminders…), Quentin has not expressed a single thing. And while I know my boy does want presents, figuring out what to get him every year has been such a struggle.
Most verbal children with autism will be able to communicate what they want as a gift. Even some non-verbal kids have preferences for certain TV or movie characters, which can help when it comes to toys. But not my boy – he seems to like several characters, but has never been “obsessed” with any one franchise. (I suppose this is a good thing? I often wonder if obsessing over a character is a good thing or not, as many neuro-typical kids tend to obsess.) There is no one particular type of toy he likes, either, like trains, cars, sports, or action figures. So every year, it’s been quite a task to find gifts that he would want.
Which is why I was so impressed at the large number of holiday gift-idea lists that were created for kids with autism this year! (If you have been following me on Facebook or Twitter then you may have seen me post about these in the past few weeks – I am happy to share tidbits like these lists as they come up.) For those of you who are still shopping for that child in your life (or if you could use a heads-up for an upcoming birthday celebration), here are my favorite gift-lists of the season:
- Love that Max: Best Toys for Kids with Special Needs. Ellen Seidman has posted this guide on her blog for the past few years, and it remains the first go-to list for me. Created with Parents.com, she uses recommendations that come directly from parents of special needs kids. (Note: My small contribution to the list is actually first!)
- This year, Toys R Us partnered with Autism Speaks to develop “Top Ten Toys that Speak to Autism.” In addition, they have a toy guide for differently-abled kids. While the list skews mostly to the younger set (and therefore not really for Quentin), I’m still impressed that it’s out there. Who knew that such a big, corporate toy store could be so cool?
- The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism shared a lot of great books to give as gifts for people of all ages. (Hmmm… anyone out there forget to give me a gift?!?)
- The Stir created 8 Mom-Approved Gifts for Kids with Autism. This is a short group of suggestions, but they are well thought out. I really liked this list, in particular, for the comments from the parents.
- Finally, there was a pretty great post with tips for having an autism-friendly Christmas… which really applies to any holiday celebration involving gifts, a lot of people, and life out-of-routine. These ideas were collected from social media sites, and include tips from many different parents. I’m bookmarking this one for future celebrations, too!
So how did our holiday go, gift-wise for Quentin? Well, I chose to focus on sensory toys, since this is the kind of thing he gravitates to the most. After creating a wish-list on amazon.com, I perused all these lists to find toys that would best suit my boy. Friends and family could then go straight to the wish list to purchase. The big hits this year included: Moon Sand (featured in photo above), a Body Pod Sensory Sock, and some Kidz Gear Wired Headphones For Kids (which was more of a gift for the rest of the family – so we won’t have to hear him press “repeat” every few seconds on every PBS Kids video he watches on the ipad).
Every year it is hit-or-miss with gifts I choose for Quentin. The surprise “hit” for him this year? The Barbie 2-Story Beach House that Fiona received as a gift! He loves it! I’m thrilled at his pretend-play abilities here and it’s making me rethink everything. Maybe there is a Ken doll in his future…
What gifts have you given to a child with autism that have worked out well? Feel free to share!