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10 Tips to Help You Pick A Gift for Children and Teens with Autism

By Bonnie Arnwine, Founder of National Autism Resources

Choosing a gift for a child with autism can be tough because every child is different. With that said, here are ten gift ideas that have worked well based on my personal and professional experience with National Autism Resources.

Life is overwhelming buy something calming. 

Have you ever been upset and then someone gave you a big hug and all of the sudden you felt better? That calming deep pressure helped you release tension and calm down. Weighted items often feel like a big hug to children with autism.

These gifts can be more expensive but can also be extremely helpful and can be used for several years. A weighted blanket can help a child go to sleep or swaddle them when they feel overwhelmed.

 - A weighted lap pad can help a child relax and focus in the classroom or at the dinner table.
 - For calming weight on the go you can try weighted animals or a weighted vest.
 - Gentle vibration feels great and can be very calming for kids. Check out our vibrating pillows they are the perfect size to hug or lean on. We also have cute vibrating animals.
 - A vibrating mitt is easy to use, lightweight, durable and pressure activated to conserve battery life.

 Most children with autism enjoy visual gifts.

 - Some of our top calming visual gifts include our sand panelsliquid timers, and ooze tubes.
 - A Laser Stars is amazing to look at and amazingly calming. This projector turns any room into a planetarium with stars that gently float across the sky. An occasional shooting star makes it extra interesting.
 - A Plasma Light is highly visual and great for teaching cause and effect. Just touch the ball and watch lights gravitate towards your fingertips.
 - The Hoberman Sphere is fascinating to watch. Just pull it open and watch it expand from 9.5 inches to 30 inches. Push any hub and watch it contract!
 - Our see through rain tube features silver beads that sparkle, reflecting light as they fall creating the soothing sound of rain.
 - A few more popular light up toys include the Mini Light SpinnerRail Twirler, and our soft light up spiky ball.

Get a gift that teaches a specific skill.

Social Skills Games
Fine Motor Skills Toys
Gross Motor Skill Gifts
Hand-Eye Coordination Gifts
Learning Puzzles for Autism

Get gifts that will help teach social skills.

Poor social skills unfortunately is a hallmark of autism. The good news is that children on the autism spectrum can learn social skills with practice. Several social skills games are fun to play and teach vital social skills that can help kids for the rest of their lives. Here are a few of my favorites:

 - The set of 6 Social Skills Games teaches vital social skills including manners, empathy, emotions, emotion management, choices and more.
 - The Hidden Rules  is a fun and relaxing game that allows kids to explore social mistakes. Best of all these are social mistakes the blunders are making so it keeps the discussion neutral.
 - How about playing Social Skills Bingo for Teens instead of Monopoly? This fun game covers a variety of complex social skills that teens on the spectrum need to learn for social success.
 - It's important for children with autism to learn that their actions have consequences. Explore this important concept in a fun and relaxed manner with the Stop, Relax and Think Game.

A great set of flashcards.

There are so many flash card sets designed to teach children with autism specific skills. Therapists can't always afford what they would like to use to help your child. Why not give a gift that will help your child and future children as well?

Get a gift that helps with the big three: eating, sleeping or toileting.

Eating, sleeping and toileting are three essential life skills. If a child with autism has problems with any one of these life can be very difficult for the child and family.

Gift ideas to support eating.
Gift ideas to support sleeping.
Gift ideas to support toileting.

Choose something the child with autism has a special interest.

Many people on the autism spectrum have an overwhelming interest in a particular subject. If this is the case with the child you are going to buy a gift for look at gifts in these areas. If the child is interested in dinosaurs or trains then look at toys or books related to this area. However, for kids who have a very specific interest don’t wait until the last minute to buy a gift. Start shopping early.

Look at a person's developmental ability.

A characteristic of children on the autism spectrum is "spikes" in development. Often kids may be ahead of their peers in some developmental areas and behind in others. When choosing a gift its best to pick one based on your child’s ability rather than their age.

Teens & Tweens

Gifts that provide sensory stimulation.

Many children with autism really enjoy sensory toys and gifts. Check out our sensory toys that stimulate specific senses:

Sensory Toys & Gifts

Gift cards always work! Still unsure what gift to buy then get a gift card.