It’s that time of year when you’ll be stumbling upon gift guides for every group thinkable. Gifts for the food lover, gardener gifts, footy fan suggestions or perhaps gift ideas for the home. This list is a little different and comes with a caveat. I’m just a mum with experience of autism. Over the years as a parent and as an experienced teacher I’ve observed a number of things. I have noticed themes in the types of toys that many (not all) autistic children gravitate towards.
So this year, if you’re buying for a loved one who is autistic, maybe I’ll be able to offer some thoughts about the types of gifts you may want to consider.
We’re huge Lego fans in our house. As much as we love the generic bricks and bits all mixed in a huge tub to explore and create, the Lego sets have also been a big hit. These 8+ Lego Friends sets are the first larger sets we’ve tried and are amazing. There is something about the ability to take bags of tiny bits, follow a logical, sequential series of instructions and create something impressive and intricate. It’s hard to make a mistake and the organisation of pieces into numbered bags lowers demand and the chance of feeling overwhelmed.
Nature Exploration Gifts
One of the key areas of development that many autistic children struggle with to some extent is how they communicate and interact with the world around them. It isn’t that an autistic person interacts in a way that is wrong. It is just that people who think about and experience the world in different ways may struggle to emphathise and understand each other. This goes both ways.
Having a bug hotel like this or similar nature exploration kits can be great for autistic children. They provide the opportunity to interact with the natural world around them in a space that is free from judgment or opinion. Children can explore their senses as they hunt for natural materials to house their garden insects. There are no social expectations with these animals and no requirement to communicate in a specific way.
Many children on the autistic spectrum will also experience sensory sensitivities or have sensory needs. Some autistic children can be sensory seekers, craving more sensory input than neurotypical children. This may look like spinning, hanging upside down, jumping and needing lots of physical assertion to regulate their bodies.
Outdoor play equipment such as a go-kart allows children to enjoy movement breaks from activities that may otherwise drain them. The nature of solo equipment such as bikes, scooters and go-karts enables a personalised experience that can be enjoyed at an individual’s own pace.
Many autistic children enjoy messy play although this is certainly one that can split the group. The sensory experience can be extremely exciting for some while others find it almost unbearable. As with any of these suggestions, it would always be wise to ask the child or a close adult before purchasing any gift.
Playdough, plasticine and kinetic sand all allow a child to play, explore and create without any expectation to make something permanent. There is no need to create anything at all. The simple experience of touching and reshaping materials like this can be incredibly enjoyable.
It is well documented that a common trait in many autistic children is the desire for order and predictability. Gifts that come in their own organised carry containers where each component has its own designated space and can be clearly identified, can be a big hit.
These crayons and felt tip sets are fantastic for just this. The crayons click into the handy carry case and can be organised neatly so each colour can be seen instantly. The pen set sits neatly on a desktop. It has a slot for each colour to be removed and replaced as needed. These sorts of gifts also allow for freedom of expression and creativity.
Special Interest Gifts
Finally, this is probably the most obvious of suggestions but many autistic children have a particular special interest that they can be extremely passionate about. Their interest and knowledge of this special subject can be significant and so finding out what this is for them can really help when choosing a gift.
Hopefully, this article has been helpful in directing you towards the sort of presents that autistic children may enjoy. As previously mentioned, every autistic child is as individual as the next and so no gift will be certain win.
One final point to leave you with. Some autistic children find the social expectations surrounding gift receiving to be quite demanding. Don’t be dishearted if your well thought out gift doesn’t get the enthusiastic reaction you were hoping for. Sometimes children just need to explore new toys or gifts in their own time. You can find all the toys featured in this article by searching though the amazing selection at Very or by clicking here.
The article was written in collaboration with gifts from Very.com