Updated: Apr 6
One of the best parts of being a child is the lack of true responsibility. Sure, they receive chores from their parents, they have schoolwork to do, but they aren’t rushing out day by day to work from 9 to 5 to provide for themselves. Just about everything a child comes into contact with is given to them, from food to clothing to experiences, by those close to them. And at certain times throughout the year, whether it be a birthday or a more publicly-celebrated holiday, children commonly find themselves showered with gifts. It isn’t always simple to shop for children, since each child is different from the next. When thinking of gifts for children with Autism, there are many different paths to go down to help ensure they benefit from your thoughtful gift.
Before discussing product-specific recommendations, it would be relevant to go through some of the significance behind giving gifts. Think of your own favorite childhood gift or experience. What was it? Who gave it to you? If you can answer either or both of those questions, then it is a bit more apparent to you just how impactful a gift can be to a child. The gift itself may not be it. Throw that concern out the door: a memorable gift comes from knowing a person and what they like/need. Shopping for gifts for kids with Autism is a great way to show them the extent to which you understand and care about their individual needs and interests.
There are many realms in which a gift for a child with Autism can exist. Just because you’re shopping for a child does not mean that you have to be on the hunt for the latest trendy kids’ toy – as I’m sure you experienced as a child, boredom plus the right tools can equal imagination, which is a common bridge towards enjoyment.
It would benefit you to sit down and quickly jot down some of the activities that you take part in with the child with Autism you are shopping for. Is this child your own? Perfect. What is your child’s favorite thing that you two do together? Perhaps it’s time to refresh one of the items associated with that activity. Do you enjoy watching movies together? Grab a weighted blanket or two, make their favorite snack, and cuddle up! Do the two of you play outside together? Think about their favorite activity: does it involve some sort of equipment that could be enhanced with weight, compression, or other sensory input?
And if the child is not your own, the same contemplation is worthwhile. Whatever interaction the two of you share can likely be improved upon with a gift. When the specific needs and preferences of any child are taken into consideration when getting them a gift, that child will cherish it that much more. Ask their parent what would help their child.
Have no fear within the common clothing trope for purchasing gifts for children: clothing can be an incredibly rewarding gift for children with Autism. Children with Autism commonly require additional sensory stimulation through their clothing. While you may see some children in the media frowning at receiving clothing for gifts, remember that children with Autism commonly experience sensitivity to stimuli of many types. Therefore, they would likely love an article of clothing that takes a particular sensitivity of theirs into consideration in its construction (color, material, fastenings, ease of function, etc.). Perhaps they would greatly benefit from some compression or weighted clothing or products. Again, success in gift purchasing is all about knowing the recipient: you’re going to have to do a bit of homework, and remember that you can and should ask their parents for recommendations.
You may relate to some children that shy away from receiving clothing as gifts. Since children with Autism commonly experience sensitivity to stimuli of all types, it’s relevant to consider any interest of theirs that would help the two of you celebrate a special day, a personal achievement, or really any occasion to receive a gift. We’re all humans; we love gifts.
If coming up with activities is a bit challenging, or if inspiration is needed, the following list is a great starting point to visit when beginning the search for the perfect gift for a child with Autism:
Swimming, karate, or any other sort of lessons, provided that the instructor understands the child’s needs (this will require further research, but will absolutely be worthwhile)
Visual eye/hand coordination games/equipment
Games that include counting, numbers, etc.
Putty, play dirt, play sand, water beads, etc.
Bean bag chairs
Soft noise sound machines
Like everything else in the world, gifts are personal. Having the surprise of receiving a gift be flipped upside down when the gift itself is nowhere near something you’d want is quite sad. You thought of your favorite toy from your childhood before: now it’s time for you to think of the toy you remember opening and immediately preparing to throw away. Depending on your age, you may have fought that urge and politely, yet frantically searched for the receipt, but you understand the feeling. For a child with Autism, the emotional response to receiving a gift comes with more acute scrutiny. They may not be able to show you right away, or at all, that they appreciate your gift. Keep in mind that individuals with Autism have very particular preferences in just about every aspect of life, and knowing these when looking for a special present to give to them is crucial to making it special. It may not be physical, but that doesn’t really matter. Remember to really take the time to consider what they’d enjoy, as well as consider the added benefits that would come from choosing a gift specifically suited for individuals with Autism. So, sit down, let the ideas flow, and do some research. Their reaction will be worth it.