Buying a toy, gift or Christmas present for a child or teen on the autism spectrum can be challenging. During the holidays we receive many calls asking our product specialists for gift advice. Based on these questions our product specialists have put together this guide to help you choose the best gifts for children, teens and adults on the autism spectrum.Things to consider when choosing toys or gifts for children and teens with Autism or Aspergers syndrome.Keep in mind an autistic person's developmental ability rather than age.
When choosing a gift or toy for an autistic person think about their developmental ability rather than their age. For example, if the child has delays in language or social skills look for toys that are at their ability level that can encourage this development. This will minimize frustration and encourage playful exploration and development.
Toys & Gift Guides Based on Developmental Age
Calming gifts for autistic children, teens and adults.
Another good type of gift to consider for children and teens on the autism spectrum is something that is calming. Miscommunication and misunderstandings are common for people on the spectrum due to social and communication struggles. Stress, anxiety and meltdowns can be common, a soothing gift is not only enjoyable but can also make life easier for the whole family.
Toys & Gift That Can Help Build Skills
- Gentle vibration is very calming and many autistic children and teens enjoy vibrating toys and gifts such as a vibration bear, vibrating animal or vibrating mitt.
- Slow, repetitive motion items are also calming such as
star projection lamp or ooze tubes.
- Weighted items also are very calming. These gifts can be more expensive but can also be an extremely helpful gift for autistic children and teens that can be used for several years. A weighted blanket, lap pads or weighted vests are all very popular weighted gifts for children and teens on the autism spectrum.
Many autistic children, teenagers and adults enjoy sensory toys and products.
Gifts that Help Language Development
Language and communication challenges are common among the autism population. A wide variety of flashcards
can teach basic and advanced language skills. A child with language delays who is beginning to notice their peers will do better with simple turn taking board games. Some simple turn taking games that can also help with language development are Magnetic Wooden Bug-Catching Game
, Sentence Building Game
, 6 Speaking/Listening Board Game Set
or the 6 Language Development Board Game
.Gifts that Help Social Skills
A hallmark symptom of autism is delayed or impaired social skills. The good news is that people of all ages can learn essential social skills with practice. Here are a few gift ideas to help with this area.
Simple cause and effect toys
allow an autistic child to take turns playing with a peer or family member. Cause and effect toys are nice for emerging social interaction because immediately the child is rewarded for simple interaction.
Games that help children to recognize and empathize with others is also a vital social skill. Games that can help with this include Feelings Listening Lotto
and the Guess How I Feel Game
Learning to hold and sustain a conversation is a vital skill some fun portable conversation prompts such as the Buddy Talk
. These fun card sets are full of questions to help kids and teens sustain a conversation. For those who need a visual cue check out the Conversation Starters Set
Some fun books to consider that cover social skills include: Diary of a Social Detective
, My Social Stories Book
Social Rules for Kids
You Are a Social Detective
When choosing gifts and toys for autistic children and teens think about what they like. Do they have an interest in a particular subject? If so look at gifts in these areas. If the child is interested in dinosaurs, cars, or planes then look at toys or books related to this area. If the child has a very specific interest then it's best to look for gifts in this area throughout the year. For example if the autistic child enjoys bridges, then you don't want to wait until the last minute to buy them a gift.
Gifts to That Can Help Fine Motor Skills
An autistic child who is struggling with fine motor skills may enjoy Willy's Wiggly Web Game
that are chunky and visually interesting. The idea is to pick a toy that is fun to play with that also provides a slight challenge for the hands and fingers.
Interesting sound toys
like a rain stick
or slide whistle
are usually fun and work well as small gifts or Christmas stocking stuffers.
It can be a challenge choosing toys for autistic children. We hope these tips have been helpful for you.