Finding That Special Gift For That Special Child

By Hilary Gibson, Staff Writer


A caregiver isn’t just someone who is restricted to taking care of only an elderly or ill family member. Caregiving frequently encompasses the duties of regular parenting, but goes way beyond this role, particularly when a special needs child is the one being given the unique care and attention they need. 

With all of the advances in medical science and research, the origins and cures for several childhood disorders, such as autism, still continue to elude the medical detectives. What is definitely known about autism is that it is a neurological disorder which usually affects the processing, integrating, and organizing of information in the brain, causing the child to have problems with communication, social interaction, functional skills, and educational performance. To pin point any one, true cause for autism is still nearly impossible, which leads one to believe that there may be too many causes to categorize. Certain outside contributors that may cause autism include some form of trauma at birth, prenatal viruses, and possibly some childhood vaccinations. None of these have been conclusively shown to cause autism, however, it does appear that the one commonality that may lend itself to being a cause is anything that may disturb or hamper the central nervous system of a child, causing it to develop abnormally. 

Since so little is known about autism, it may be difficult for parents, friends and relatives to understand what is going on inside the child’s mind, and what type of toys or activities would be enjoyable, stimulating, and help to enhance the abilities and progression of the child. It’s really no different choosing a toy for an autistic child than it is for any child, however, here are a few helpful things to keep in mind:

  • Try to find a toy or gift that will be fairly unbreakable. Selecting toys made of wood, metal, or heavy plastic. 
  • For younger children, obviously get something that doesn’t have any small pieces that could be ingested, become stuck in their throat, or hurt other parts of their body.

  • Find toys that can be played with both when the child is wanting to be alone, or with other people, allowing for social integration with the child.

  • Don’t purchase games that require a lot of people to play, since autistic children often prefer to play alone. Games also have too many small pieces that may be too confusing and possibly dangerous for the child. However, games that have large pieces, such as dominoes, may be appropriate for older children while under supervision.

  • Purchase toys that are appropriate for the child’s developmental age, not necessarily their true, chronological age.

  • Learn about the likes and dislikes of the child. It is even safe to say that autistic children can be somewhat “obsessive” with certain colors, patterns, or toys that help them repeat a certain sound or action over and over, so it is good to buy toys that will appeal to them for this purpose as well. Any toys or large-pieced games that form patterns or lines are great.

  • Lego’s for older children and Duplo’s for younger children are an excellent gift since the multiple parts can be assembled (these building systems are different from other toys or games that just have tons of little pieces which are not necessarily utilized). Depending upon the child’s imagination, many autistic children enjoy creating different types of shapes and thoroughly enjoy the assembly process.

  • Find out what kind of movies or shows the child likes to watch. Getting them a video or DVD can be a terrific gift.

  • Fixations with clothes or shoes is also very typical, so buying a pair of shoes or getting the kind of clothes they like will also make for good gift giving.

  • Items that can be used indoors and provide exercise are also good gifts, like a stationary bike (a previously owned one can be inexpensive).

  • There are many different type of affordable toy computers on the market that teach math, reading, spelling, etc. Try to find one that has multi-sensory components which allow the child to not only learn, but to be creative as well.

To help you with even more gift ideas, here’s a list of websites which offer toys, games that are appropriate for autistic kids: Adapt Net; Auti Toys; Come Play With Me; Dragonfly Toys (US); Dragonfly Toys (Canada); Enabling Devices; Honey the Signing Bear; Science Products; TFH (US) Limited; The Center for Creative Play; and Thomas the Tank Engine.


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