By Courtney Harris
Finding a holiday gift every year for my disabled son is a challenge. Not only do I need to come up with my own ideas, I usually have family members all request suggestions for him as well. He often has practical needs like clothing, but no one is excited to give a kid pants or socks.
Here are some tips I’ve learned with my son and some things I found online that were helpful.
- Don’t assume. This statement actually applies to all my children. Nothing brings a eyeroll faster than a relative still assuming that they still like something they liked when they were three years old. But likewise, don’t assume just because they are older that they have now outgrown something. Just ask the child, parent or perhaps a sibling.
- Which leads to the next point, follow their interests for ideas. My son likes people and places so maps are a natural gift idea but you can find them in many forms: wall hangings, puzzles, globes, even a floor rug with a map of U.S. states. Get creative with whatever their “thing” is and feed that interest.
- Consider giving gifts that aid development. I have gotten some of my best gift ideas from my son’s physical, speech, occupational and behavioral therapists. Mini-trampoline, foam balance beam, hand dexterity puzzles, play putty, anything that promoting active fingers, and large and small motor skills.
- Get personal. Some of my son’s favorite gifts have been ones with a personal touch. A grandparent made a photo album of family pictures he loves to look through. An aunt had a blanket made with his name stitched on it. Just think very custom to the individual.
- Spread the love. Give a gift that promotes interaction and sharing to promote social lessons and turn taking. Games, role play toys, even art supplies are be more fun with a friend. A toy cash register encouraged how to be patient in a store waiting for a purchase to be rung up.
- Give experiences. One of the best gifts my son ever got was swim lessons. Another favorite was a membership to a nearby children’s museum.
- Think long term. Some gifts have a longer shelf life than others—a book for example. Consider the quality and durability of an item and see if worth making an investment in a product that will get years of use.
- Don’t build expectations of their response. There have been times we were excited to give my son a gift only to have him more interested in the box in which it came. Some kids, especially those with autism can have unpredictable responses and may not want the attention that comes with opening a gift.
- Remember safety first and choose toys free of BPAs, phthalates, PVC or toxic chemicals and dyes. Be aware of small parts for choking hazards.
- And finally, have fun with it. Selecting gifts for children is supposed to be enjoyable, don't stress too much over your choices. Include a gift receipt that gives a flexible option to exchange for a preferred gift.
Here are a few helpful articles:
- Focus on the person’s interests and preferences
- Focus on age-appropriateness
- Be mindful of behavior excesses/triggers
- Focus on toys that encourage interaction with others
- Focus on expanding their repertoire
The Today show lists the 26 best gifts and toys for children with special needs in 2021
These gifts are effective in both therapy and at home for children of all abilities.
A gift guide for kids and adults with disabilities is designed to give you lots of ideas for finding the best gifts to give people with disabilities, as well as some tips for showering them with love and care during any special holiday or celebration!
Have tips and suggestions for gift giving? I would love to hear YOUR IDEAS and gift giving solutions for kids of all abilities in the comments below.