Consider the child when purchasing a gift. Just as you wouldn’t buy a truck for a Barbie loving little girl – nor should you purchase a 8+ science kit for a child with a cognitive ability of a three year old. I’ve often had people come right out and ask me, “What do I buy for a child on the spectrum?” I first try to explain that every child is different and this goes for ASD children, too. Just because one child likes science doesn’t mean all children with autism do. My recommendations are simple – consider the child’s interests and instead of going by their age consider their cognitive age. Also, ask their parents! I hear tons of parents’ wishes about how they wish people would give their children a pass to a museum or something therapeutic to help with everyday tasks. I always say, “Be curious, not judgmental.” This applies to gift giving, too. Don’t be afraid to be curious and ask, but don’t be judgmental if they ask for money towards therapy – after all, you did ask.
Below is a list of a variety of toy ideas and therapy solutions for a wide range of ages and abilities. Please keep in mind what gift is right for one may not be right for another. If you are still unsure, you can consider sending the gift receipt with your gift. This way it shows you took the time to give a gift but you allow the parents the option to return the gift if it isn’t a good fit for the child.
Therapeutic Gift Ideas
- Yogibo – is like an improved bean bag. The big one, the Yogi Max, lets you sink your kid into it, so they receive a cuddly feeling. http://www.yogibo.com/yogi-max-4.html#.UmVRkPmTiSo
- Hammock or Hammock swing – again gives a snuggly, secure effect while rocking back and forth http://www.autism-products.com/Joki_Hammock_Swing_p/1353862.htm
- Weighted blankets or lap pads – help release melatonin which is a natural chemical in the brain that calms and improves focus http://www.signingautisticlives.com/products/
- EASe Pro Listening Therapy – can be bought as an app or as discs to help alleviate auditory sensitivity for more information watch the videos or read the interview with Bill Mueller. My daughter’s Occupational Therapist used listening therapy to help my daughter with her sound sensitivity and in six weeks she showed a vast improvement. She never uses her noise reduction headphones anymore, but before would need them at least once a day.
- Signing for Autistic Lives – you can buy just one set to see if signing can help facilitate a way to communicate and help give the visual and kinesthetic support you child needs to help form words
6. Teethers – if you have a sensory seeker that needs to bite try stuffing their stocking with different teether to see which ones help alleviate the biting. My favorites are the P&Qs, the Knobby Chewy Tubes or the “Chewlery.” http://www.autism-products.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=PQ
7. Noise Reduction Headphones or ear plugs – http://www.autism-products.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=1404579
8. Knot Genie – if hair brushing is a painful ordeal then I highly recommend buying a Knot Genie. Everyone in our house uses a Knot Genie for a hair brush. My daughter with Asperger’s has an extremely difficult time with hair brushing and dampening her hair and using the Knot Genie has made the daily task easy. No more fighting, no more crying, just beautiful hair. http://www.knotgeniestore.com/Shop-Now_3
9. Water fun: Plui – a water ball that lets it rain http://www.fatbraintoys.com/toy_companies/kid_o/plui.cfm and the Rinse Ace can help integrate the feeling of sprinkling water and encourage taking showers http://www.rinseace.com/product/my-own-shower
10. Visual Supports like http://firstandthen.com/shop/ for paper supports storage or the Do2Learn company has an extensive amount of pictures and charts and schedules and now even has a digital visual aid called View2Do http://www.do2learn.com/picturecards/VisualSchedules/index.htm. I highly recommend them. I use the reminder strips with my daughter and have used the social stories for my son. It is easy to use and I don’t have to search for images I just type in what I need and I get a variety of images to choose from. The staff has always been kind and prompt with any questions that I presented them. Now with View2Do, I don’t have worry about having the latest installment of this
Exercise Ball – this can be fun to sit on and bounce or roll on their bellies, but it can also help build trunk muscle strength
Bilibo – It’s better if you watch the video then have me try to explain this http://www.fatbraintoys.com/toy_companies/kid_o/bilibo.cfm?display=video
Trampolines – I opt for the small one with handles. My two favorites are the one with animal sounds that I own http://www.walmart.com/ip/Bounce-N-Learn-Interactive-Kids-Trampoline-by-Skywalker-55-Round/16929317 or the one a friend of mine owns seen here http://www.fatbraintoys.com/toy_companies/diggin/jump_smart_trampoline.cfm
Go-go Pogo – is an interactive pogo stick that has games and music to keep the children busy http://www.fatbraintoys.com/toy_companies/diggin/go_go_pogo.cfm
Super Skipper – if the child has good motor abilities this toy has two sticks that spin around (with adjustable speeds) for children to hop over while listening to songs http://www.fatbraintoys.com/toy_companies/international_playthings/iplay_super_skipper.cfm?redir=yes
Cranium Hullabaloo – is a fun game that encourages listening skills. Children place small mats on the floor and are told to do various movements such as: hop to an instrument, stomp to red circle. The winner gets to do a funky dance. This is no longer for sale at major retailers but you may be able to purchase a gently used one from Amazon or make up your own version.
Up and Down Coaster – ages 2-5, a small roller coaster. They have a race car option, or a Thomas the Tank Engine one at http://www.bjs.com/step2-thomas-the-tank-engine-up–down-coaster.product.249641?dimId=
Musical Instruments – Bongos, Keyboard, Guitars, and Microphones are wonderful gifts.
Imaginative Play – This is a difficult concept to grasp but these toys can come in handy to explain real- life situations.
Kaskey Kids has these great tubs of athletic figurines with playing fields that can help children understand how to play the game. I gave one to the special needs soccer coach in town. He uses it to help explain how to do a play. I love the details. Each character has a number and there is even a ref. http://www.kaskeykids.com/
Dolls – I like the collection from Target called Our Generation. It is like a less expensive American Girl Doll. They have accessories that can be helpful to give special needs children a visual explanation. For instance, I used the horse to show my daughter how the saddle is attached and where the bridle went. She loves to ride horses but was pulling the reins too much. This way she was able to see up close how the reins were attached to the bridle and the horses’ mouth. They also have camping equipment and salon accessories if you need to explain either of these real-life situations. http://www.target.com/p/our-generation-20-tennessee-walking-horse-with-accessories/-/A-13407848#prodSlot=medium_1_6&term=our+generation+horse
Older Children (eight years old and up)
The first eight products listed below can be found at http://www.fatbraintoys.com/index.cfm
- Tangoes Jr.
- Animal Logic
- Block Builders
- Our Amazing Bridges Architecture Set
- Snap Circuits Sound
- Big Bag of Science Physics Workshop
- Air Stream Machines
- Robotic Arm
- Robotic Puppy – seen at www.BJs.com
- Music – buy them downloadable songs or CDs
- Artdoku app – like Sudoku but with colors https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/artdoku/id666551455?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo=4