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Holiday Gift Guide for Children with Autism


As big of a gift as it is, a child may love to have an iPad to watch videos on, use educational apps, and play games. A tablet or e-reader may also be appropriate for some children, especially if they like to read. There are many toys like robots, robotic pets, and dolls that would give feedback and interaction to the child that they may enjoy.

Some children have difficulty wearing clothes of different materials and fits. Some children may prefer specific types of clothing. Compression clothing can give some children sensory input that can help them to focus throughout the day. They may also like the clothing of a specific color or with a favorite character on them. Consider the child you are shopping for and what clothing would be best for them.

Developmentally-Appropriate versus Age-Appropriate Gifts
It is important to remember that not all children with autism would benefit from receiving gifts that are designed for children of the same chronological age. For instance, caution should be taken when giving toys that focus on fine motor skills to a 10-year-old child with autism who also has pica (which is when an individual eats nonfood items). This is because if the toy has small parts, the child might try putting them in their mouth or even swallowing the items.

Although you should always consider the needs, abilities, and preferences of the individual child that you are shopping for, we'll offer some guidance on gifts that could be suitable for certain children by age group.

Gift Ideas for Toddlers
Toddlers are going through rapid developmental changes. Gifts for toddlers should help support these developmental domains and foster a sense of curiosity and exploration in the child. Some examples of gifts for toddlers include:
  • puzzles
  • Shape sorter
  • Cause-and-effect toys (such as toys with buttons, that make noise or make music, etc.)
  • Books (especially ones with textures and interactive features)
  • Blocks
  • Pretend play toys (such as cars, figurines, etc.)
Gift Ideas for Preschoolers
Preschoolers are typically able to engage in somewhat advanced back-and-forth communication with others. They are also typically able to complete more tasks independently and have developed greater fine motor and gross motor skills although these skills continue to develop after the preschool stage.

They are also experiencing great growth in their cognitive abilities. Some examples of gifts for
preschoolers include:
  • Role-playing/pretend toys (ex: kitchen set, tool set, costumes)
  • STEM toys (toys that address science, technology, education, and math)
  • Craft supplies (such as paper, crayons, glue, child-friendly scissors, stickers, etc.)
Gift Ideas for Young School-Agers (ages 6-10)
Children who are in kindergarten and early elementary school, are expanding their skills in so many
ways. They are going through new social experiences. They are learning things such as turn-taking
patience, and communication skills. They are being challenged academically and cognitively. They are increasing their gross motor and fine motor skills, as well. Gift ideas for young school-agers include:
  • Project kits (such as slime kits, craft kits, and science kits)
  • Sports supplies
  • Games
  •  Items that foster self-expression (such as a journal, craft supplies, stationery supplies, and stickers)
  • More advanced STEM toys and activity kits
  • Items related to their special interests (ex: real baking supplies for a child interested in cooking)

Gift Ideas for Tweens (ages 9-12)

Many kids between the ages of about nine to twelve desire to do more "grown-up things while alsc
being interested in some "little kid" activities. At this age, it's helpful to consider where the child is
developmentally and their interests. Here are a few examples of gifts for this age group
  • Personal care items (such as nail polish - if its okay with the parent, bath supplies, and hair
  • accessories)
  • • More "grown-up' items, such as cooking supplies or tools (if the child is able to use these items
  • appropriately)
  • Room décor (based on their preferences)
  • Anything themed with their special interests (such as a t-shirt with their favorite character.
Gift Ideas for Teens (13 and older)
Teens are experiencing another growth spurt. They are going through puberty and experiencing
changes in how they view themselves as well as how they think about and interact with other people. To buy gifts for a child in this age group, be sure to consider what they are interested in and what they like however, some general ideas include:
Items that are related to their hobbies or special interests
  • High-quality water bottle
  • Organization supplies for their bedroom
  • Gift cards for outings that they might like (such as concert tickets or to go to a movie)
  • Self-care items (such as bath bombs, chapstick, soaps, and scented items)
  • Electronic related items (such as earbuds/headphones, a phone case, etc.)
Buying Gifts for Children with Autism
Buying gifts for children with autism can be a daunting task, especially if the child has restricted interests try to get the child gifts that you know they will like. Remember that even if a child with autism doesn't respond in a positive way to a gift, it's okay. The child might not respond to gifts as most other children do. Of course, they might benefit from working on saying thank you to someone who gives them a gift, but theres no reason to put extra pressure on them during the holidays unless the parent has decided it would be in the child's best interest to work on manners or certain behaviors during this time
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