Holiday season is upon us! Radio stations are switching to carols, holiday bazaars are popping up all around, and Christmas lists are overflowing. Checking off those lists can be daunting, particularly when you’re not sure what to give a recipient. Children with Aspergers, or otherwise on the Autism Spectrum, can be challenging to shop for; however, as with any meaningful gift, a little research can ensure success! Compiled below are a list of suggestions for your son, daughter, relative or friend with Aspergers. Our Aspergers Christmas Gift Guide 2019 is full of a variety of interests and experiences, sure to steer you in the right direction. If possible, ask a few questions about the intended recipient’s current interests. Some children with Aspergers maintain a strong, narrow field of interest, while others jump from topic to topic – just like any other child! Youth with Aspergers have varied likes an interests, so adding what you know about your child will help give your holiday giving that personal, final touch.
Children with Aspergers and other learning differences often rely heavily on biofeedback to help regulate, calm, and otherwise ground themselves. Objects that provide variations in pressure, sensations, visual images, weight, and sound can be an “easy” go-to item for those on your list who you’re just not sure about. If you do not have a close relationship with the child, you can ask their parents or caregivers if there is a particular sensory area that their child gravitates to and choose items from that arena. For example, many online companies sell hanging hammocks, or cocoons, targeted towards children with Aspergers as they provide a secure, cozy, and wrapped environment for the child to read or otherwise engage in solitary activities. There are also sensory pods which inflate to wrap around a child, similar to a pea in a pod, providing all around gentle pressure, which many children on the autism spectrum find calming. Personal trampolines can be great balance and athletic activity. Smaller items, such as massagers, tactile squeeze balls, kinetic dirt-free sand, sticky balls, multi-color laser night-lights, pin art (remember those squares full of pins that fall around your hand, face, or other impression?) can all be helpful. Weighted items, such as shoulder wraps, weighted blankets, or lap blankets in various shapes of interest (such as an animal) all also very calming. Music may be an interest – bells, rainsticks, xylophones are all great choices. Unsure which direction to go? Several companies offer monthly subscriptions, delivering different boxes full of sensory items each month, sure to keep any child engaged. One such example is called “Sensory TheraPLAY”. If a monthly subscription is outside of your budget, you can build your own! Fill a box or gift basket with various slimes, putty, candy that crackles, fidget spinners, push dimples and/or all things stretchy, kneady, goopy, etc).
Check out some resources here: https://www.nationalautismresources.com/toys/sensory-toys/
As you probably know, children with Aspergers generally prefer individual activities to social interaction. Many find the challenge of a puzzle a great fit to flex their intellect while remaining engaged in a game intended for one. Puzzle or maze activity books or subscription to monthly magazines offering a puzzle focus can be a great way to fuel this interest. Parents and caregivers may also prefer puzzles over screen time.
Highlights still offers a great variety of youth magazine subscriptions or book options: https://www.highlights.com/store/puzzle-books
As noted, youth with Aspergers enjoy solitary activities as well as clearly defined, predictable environments. Often, those on the spectrum find themselves enjoying online worlds and video games. Depending on the parent or caregiver’s level of approval, new games, consoles, or game accessories can be well-received.
Many children, including those with Aspergers, have strong philanthropic interests. If you know your recipient perhaps enjoys volunteering at a local animal shelter or supports another specific cause, then what better way to show you value their interests than by donating some time yourself? If you’re unable to give your personal time, you could consider making a financial donation to their chosen organization in their honor.
While of course politics can be a hot button issue, many youth are passionate about learning more in a specific political arena or supporting a cause of interest. You could provide tickets to, or chaperone, an excursion to see a favorite political figure speak. There are endless books or subscription podcast services that provide education and resources for those who are politically-minded.
Continuing with the idea of experiences over tangible objects, providing tickets or accompanying your child to a live event of interest is an unforgettable experience! This does require research to ensure the chosen event is in line with the recipient’s interests and that he or she is comfortable with the intended level of social engagement. Once you get a general feel then there are countless events focusing on topics such as Disney, sports, music, and theater. Imagine the excitement of showing up to see a favorite baseball team play right before his or her very eyes!
If the live event is too much, many children with Aspergers enjoy collecting items from an area of interest. Such as those with autographs, biographies about favorite sports players or musicians, photos commemorating events, t-shirts highlighting a beloved game.
The popular site ThinkGeek is now part of the parent company Game Stop, and can be a great resource for unique collectibles – https://www.gamestop.com/toys-collectibles/thinkgeek
Recently Marvel came out with a new character, Lunella, from Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Moon Girl is a genius superhero who is a bit off the beaten path, awkward and aloof, not always following social norms – with which many children with Aspergers may be able to identify. Lunella is female, a minority, and dubbed the “smartest person in the whole world”. She builds gadgets that are used in battles. While many fans speculate this recent Marvel addition would be diagnosed with Aspergers, and the co-creator has shared her nephew has autism, any such diagnosis is officially is left unsaid. Regardless, giving youth with learning differences a character they can identify with in such a leading role provides a new light in which to see themselves, as a superhero, and who doesn’t want to support that?