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Holiday Toys for Children with Autism

Article excerpt from National Autism Resources

Buying a toy or gift for someone 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 kids, teens, and adults on the autism spectrum.

Often individuals on the spectrum have strong interests in a certain topic. If this is the case books or gift items that relate to their interests are always a hit. However, this can be difficult depending on the interest. If your loved one has a very specific interest start shopping early for their gift.

Consider Buying a Calming Gift

While enjoyable, unfortunately, the holidays and special occasions can often create extra stress. Kids and teens on the spectrum often have difficulty with changes to their routine because of miscommunication, not understanding what is expected of them, or overwhelming sensory experiences. It is important to remember that their sensory threshold can be lower than the general population and common daily experiences can be painful or very tiring. For example, one child shared that a vacuum cleaner “sounds like a drill on my ears.”

Calming gifts are often very well received and can help with some of these challenges. A soothing gift is not only enjoyable but can also make life easier for the whole family. Some calming gift ideas include soothing visual items and toys or gifts that provide deep pressure or vibration.

Sensory Gifts Everyone Will Enjoy

Many autistic children, teenagers, and adults enjoy sensory toys and products. They can help people to self-regulate (calm down, focus, or relax), provide a pleasant activity, or smaller items can be pleasant distractions when traveling to visit friends or family.

Some examples of popular sensory items include swings, weighted blankets, or cocoon-type beanbag chairs, or toys with interesting textures, that play music, or light up.

Remember, to be careful with sensory items, many people on the spectrum have sensory integration challenges. Be careful not to pick a toy that can be overstimulating. Ideally a gift should have volume controls or an easy way to turn it off. It may be better to get something that provides one type of sensory stimulation- such as play putty (something to touch), a musical item, or light up item.

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