Gift for an Autistic Child
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Choosing a gift for an autistic child takes some imagination. But once you get the hang of it, it's amazing what you'll come up with.
Giving a gift to a child with autism gives you the perfect chance to help them, so try to keep that in mind.
For all aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends:
The best gift for an autistic child is being involved with them! Yeah, we know; it's awkward, uncomfortable, stressful and takes a LOT of patience. And if it's like that for you, imagine how hard it is for the child!
Sit down and watch a movie with them, commenting on it, laughing and pointing to what's funny. Play "here comes the bumble bee", buzzing your fingers towards their stomach to tickle them. Take them to the ice cream store for a cone. But spend time with them! Then keep doing it! That tells the child and the parents that you "get it", and that you really, truly care, which is the most important gift of all.
Ideas for a gift for an autistic child:
Gift for an Autistic Child - Train based
A train trip with Santa, or a visit to a model railroad layout.
If your autistic child likes Thomas the Tank Engine, obviously another train for the collection would be nice. But another gift for that autistic child might be to see a model train display, or to ride an actual train.
We did this for several years at Christmas, taking Lucas to see a model train layouts at various locations, or on a short train ride. We found both within a couple of hour's drive, which made it a nice, day long outing for our whole family.
On either site, just find a group in your area, and see if they have a calendar of events or a "Christmas" or "Holiday" event link. (Another gift idea for an autistic child: these sites also have things like train calendars and signs!)
Gift for an Autistic Child - Based on their favorites
Action figures, board games or clothes based on their favorite TV or DVD character.
We all know how easy it is to let our children jell in front of a TV screen. But a child who already has social and communication problems could get a lot more out of a book, a game or playing with action figures, giving you and the family a chance to play with them!
Lucas has received many "Back to the Future" cars, characters and books over the years from the web store bttf.com, and they've all helped him expand his social horizons and play skills. He even got to attend a Delorean car show for his 18th birthday gift, meeting Back to the Future cast members and sitting in the Time Machine!
Many popular TV shows and movies have developed fan followings, and if you Google them, you may find a place that sells merchandise relating to that show or movie (for instance, there's a web site called "bttf.com" that specializes in all things relating to Back to the Future, including toys, models, etc.)
Gift for an Autistic Child - Building
A set of simple wooden blocks is a great gift for an autistic child who likes either trains (see above) or building.
We gave Lucas a set, hoping that he would use them to build "buildings" for his trains. It worked, and we spent many years with a Thomas layout in our living room with all sorts of structures made of wooden blocks.
Those blocks also took Lucas into the idea that he could use other items to build things, though. That both opened his imagination and at times, reminded us of how a gift for an autistic child could backfire (like when he used a razor to try and make a telephone pole; it had that same "T" shape!)
Barclay Wood Blocks offers maple blocks in a huge variety of sets, all made in the USA.
Gift for an Autistic Child - Book ideas
A good book.
Another great gift for an autistic child is the right book. Whether it's a "touch me" type of book with different textures throughout it, a book of his favorite TV character, or, as in Lucas' case, a story book from his favorite movie (Back to the Future), books can open up a world away from the TV, which expands a child's thinking.
Other books Lucas has enjoyed are "Look Alikes" which have entire scenes built with unusual objects, and the "I Spy" series.
Books can also give a parent the chance to start "reading time". "Reading" was part of Lucas and his brother's bedtime routine from the beginning, which gave us time to laugh together at Frog and Toad, helped him to understand emotions ("look, Rabbit's mad because Tigger ruined his garden again"), and practice communicating AND listening.
Amazon.com is where we buy most of Lucas' books.
Gift for an Autistic Child - Exercise AND fun
If your child is hyperactive, a 36" diameter mini-trampoline might be the perfect gift.
We had one in our living room for years, and Lucas could jump on it for as long as he wanted, giving him a chance to expend energy, helping him to sleep at night, and compressing his joints, which was good for him (I don't understand how that works, I just know it does!)
NOTE: Keep the child's height in mind on this one; we eventually had to get rid of the trampoline when Lucas got so tall that he was in danger of banging his head on the ceiling when he jumped.
You can find a mini-trampoline at WalMart and other stores.
Gift for an Autistic Child - Encourage language
A "Chatimal" is a terrific gift for an autistic child, because it's fun, funny AND educational.
Toys like a Chatimal are fun for everyone in the family; talk into the animal and it repeats what you say in a silly voice.
Lucas has a similar toy called Henry, the Talking Gnome, and has great fun with it. Chatimals are the same idea (you can even hold them up to the TV and let them repeat your child's favorite cartoon character!)
Gift for an Autistic Child - Unusual ideas
Puzzles, posters, etc.
We've found some great t-shirts and posters of dinosaurs and the planets, along with other fun items like planet mobiles (Lucas really enjoyed assembling and painting it, with our help), animal shaped flashlights and 3-D puzzles, at various museum and nature shops.
These stores specialize in unique and unusual items, and if you've never explored one, you're in for a surprise. They have things you just don't see in other stores, and you'll probably find something for ALL the kids on your list.
There are great gift ideas at the American Museum of Natural History, but check out any local museum stores, too. An internet search for 'museum stores' will turn up some great places!
Gift for an Autistic Child - Independent Living Aids
Don't forget, LucasWorks has some great gifts for an autistic child, too!
One last thing - You might want to run your gift choice by the child's parents. It really helps sometimes to have no surprises, especially when it's Christmas and you have a gift for an autistic child...
See previous articles on autism to the left, next to our current article.
Return to Autism Parent Support.