Gift Giving Tips for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Gift Giving Tips for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Finding just the right birthday, holiday, or congrats gift for anyone can be a challenge! If you have a child with an autism spectrum disorder on your list, the task may seem overwhelming. We’re here to help with a few general tips on how-to choose gifts, and the other selections in this publication can jump start your creative juices. But… just in case you find yourself needing more inspiration, we’ve assembled some of our favorite products from Internet sources.

Gift Giving Tips for  Children with Autism

Target special interests. The key to finding a great gift is to target the child’s special interests. Kids on the spectrum tend to have little-or-no-desire for gifts outside their area of interest, making other well-intentioned gifts a source of anxiety. Remember that holidays and special occasions are difficult for children with autism because they’re filled with surprises and bring changes to the normal routine. This is not the time to experiment with gifts intended to expand their horizon of interest.

Think Outside the Norm. Chronological age is not a good gift-giving indicator for our kids on the spectrum. Neither is “what all the kids want.” Our kids follow their own unique developmental progress. They may not have the ability to use, or be interested in, “age-appropriate” items. On the flip-side, if it fits their interest, they may thrive with gifts that are beyond what seems appropriate for their age.

Honor Suggestions. Do not ignore gift suggestions from parents just because you think they’re redundant. It doesn’t matter if you believe the child already has too many of a particular item. When it comes to a special interest, there’s never “too much,” and sometimes parents (and kids!) like to have the same item readily available in multiple rooms.

Fun versus Functional. While there are lots of “therapy” type products that could also make great gifts for the spectrum child, including music and other creative type CDs or DVDs, our emphasis here is on fun, rather than “work.” Some of our suggestions have embedded learning – all the better because kids experience the joy of learning without it becoming drudgery. That said, for some kids, the “functional” gifts are the most welcomed, so check with a child’s parent if you’re not sure about the child’s personality and favorite type of gifts.

Books. Spectrum kids relate to books on such an individual basis that we purposely did not include this type of gift on our list. The sheer number of good offerings is the second reason! If you like the idea of giving a book – and many adults do – check with the child’s parents about interests and suggestions. Many literal minded spectrum kids will not appreciate reading about animals who talk or wear clothes (they don’t really do that, after all…), and some who thrive on details and lists would be absolutely enthralled with one of those mega-compendium trivia books on a specific subject, or an educational textbook on, say, electricity or the solar system. Our kids are unique!

Ideas to Get You Started

dancelandDanceland CD:Fun Songs and Activities to Improve Sensory Skills by two physical therapists, Kristen Fitz Taylor and Cheryl McDonald and musical host, Aubrey Lande, MS, OTR/L. Delightful music gets your kids movin’ and groovin’. This CD was designed by professional therapists and comes with a “travel guide” that provides movement suggestions to improve sensory skills and ideas for creatively adapting the music for games or theatrical performances.

Read our review of Danceland CD.


 28 INSTANT Songames: Fun-Filled Activities for Kids 3-8 by Barbara Sher, MS, OTR 28 INSTANT Songames: Fun-Filled Activities for Kids 3-8   by Barbara Sher, MS, OTR, Delivering fun musical activities to address sensory issues for kids ages 3-8, these “songames” are creatively divided into animal realms to help develop body awareness, non-stress movement, feeling identification and self-expression.

Read our review of 28 INSTANT Songames.



iPad and iPhone With practical and helpful applications for children with autism, the iPad and iPhone make great gifts that are educational, remedial, and enjoyable. Begin with these web sites to learn more about what’s available and how these products may help your child:

iPad Information 

iPhone Apps Store

Weighted Blankets and Clothes Some people on the spectrum crave the calming and stress-reducing hug of a weighted product, such as a bed or lap blanket, a neck wrap, vest or t-shirt. Here are a few sources. Important Note: be sure to check with the child’s parent before purchasing a weighted product, as the product’s weight needs to be matched to the child’s size and need for pressure.

This article is taken with permission from The Autism Asperger’s Digest, a division of Future Horizons, Inc.. The Autism Asperger’s Digest was created to meet the needs of teachers, therapists, and family members who face the challenge of autism.  Our books, videos, and conferences are geared to bring you the most current information possible to assist in that challenge.

May we add to these gift suggestions for children with autism. 

Please Note: Prices are those of February 2016 when the Canadian dollar SANK TO .70 cents to US dollar.

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