Finding Christmas gifts can be difficult for any family, especially for those with a child on the spectrum. At one end, there are the children who know exactly what they want, when they want it, and have no problem telling you all about it. On the other end are the nonverbal kids, who may have a distorted sense of time, and may not even know exactly what they need or feel. And then of course there’s everyone in between.
But just like with any child (or adult, for that matter), gift-giving should depend on the personal needs and interests of the unique individual you’re gifting to. For children with autism, things get a bit more complicated, since chronological age is less important than their developmental stage. While we can’t say for certain what would make the perfect gift for any individual, we can help with something a bit more universal — the perfect stocking stuffer!
Help Unstuff Their Minds
Many children with autism have a lot going on in their heads — more than anyone could possibly know. Giving them something to focus on in the external world can be highly satisfying, while also greatly benefiting their social and motor skills as they work toward a more functional future.
One great classic is something almost everyone has seen, but not everyone owns — the Rubik’s Cube!
These little enigmas (and similar handheld puzzles) are great for problem solving, pattern recognition, numeracy, and motor skills. Who knows, you might even help create the next Max Park!
While you may have trouble stuffing it into a stocking, we have an item at the Autism Site Store that helps build similar skills, but in a more social and dynamic way than puzzle cubes.
Don’t Worry About a Thing…
Speaking of cluttered minds, having so much to think about can manifest in the kind of intense worry and anxiety that no child should have to deal with. Expressing worries is difficult for people of any age, and can be even harder when dealing with social and verbal obstacles — but venting it all out can be therapeutic, and is a great way to work through the worry.
If you’re looking for a more eclectic stocking stuffer, our traditional Guatemalan “worry no more dolls” offer a friendly ear (and they can read nonverbal minds, too!) which will capture any worry and whisk it away.
Even Wandering Is Gonna Be All Right
One common side effect of autism-related stress and anxiety is wandering behavior. All the sights, sounds, and smells of an unfamiliar place can be overwhelming, and kids sometimes deal with that by bolting in search of a more calming atmosphere. But wandering can also happen at home, and may result from the child just wanting to explore, or to visit his or her favorite place.
Although they won’t completely relieve the stress of a missing child, there’s a great stocking-stuffable, anti-wandering measure emerging in the autism community — temporary tattoos! Temp tats help put an end to wandering crises, and provide important information to anyone trying to help a wandering child find the way home. Find out more here.
Homemade IDs are a good alternative, too — just a simple card with the child’s name, a note about ASD and wandering, a phone number or address, and any other information that might get her or him back home safely.