What do you get a child that does not play with toys or just breaks the toys he does have, and everything else, for that matter. This can be a tough problem not only for the parents of these children, but the friends and extended family that rarely sees them but once a year. Welcome to the holiday frustration of having an Autistic Child.
There are a few basics to keep in mind when attempting this exasperating task. Function level of the child, and what the child enjoys doing-right now. The function level of the child, can be the hardest to figure out,especially if you are part of the extended family,or a friend, and hardly see the child. Age appropriateness won’t work here as most of these kids are either developmentaly or socially delayed or both. So what a typical 10 year old boy would love, would be inappropriate and even harmful to the Autistic child. It never hearts to ask, “What kinds of things is Mattie into these days?”. This would be a much nicer question than, “is Mattie still using baby toys?”. If you can’t ask the parent direct, ask someone who is close to the child-just make sure they give you an accurate picture, and not well meaning misinformation.
Now the big question: What to give?? It’s ALWAYS good to go with the KISS method- Keep It Simple Stupid. Keeping in mind the child’s function and social level, a higher functioning child that has social skills trouble, would benefit from things that his peers could relate to, and even interact with the child with. A hand help game with a game at his level could inspire peers to interact with the child and promote socializing. I once heard of a family that’s Autistic son only wanted a Nintendo for Christmas, that’s all he ever asked for. So every year the family bought him the latest Nintendo and donated the old one to charity. The child was thrilled every year, and another, less fortunate child, got a great gift as well.
If the child likes books but only a certain kind, and has them all, replace the worn out ones and again, donate the used ones. Same goes with DVDs, but before I wrap Mattie’s new DVDs I take the DVD out of the package and put it aside as Mattie will ALWAYS scratch the brand new one even before it gets played.
My favorite thing to tell people to get Autistic children, is an indoor swing. A few great companies for these are: http://www.southpawenterprises.com/Default.aspx, http://www.abilitations.com/, http://www.flaghouse.com/ Living in the North East, where we can have days,even weeks of bad weather, it’s great to have an activity for the kids to do that will keep them entertained. And you really don’t need a lot of room. Mattie’s swing is in our family room, with a 10 foot clearance all around. It is hung from a perminate weight bearing o ring that we had a licensed carpenter attach to the ceiling joist, with an adaptor kit from the swing company. If you are thinking of doing this, a licensed carpenter is a must, and instillation should be done before the holidays. There is nothing worse than a child unwrapping a swing and not being able to use it because the carpenter wasn’t available before Christmas. These types of swings can usually be funded by allocated funds by the ARC or Family Services of DDS, formally DMR. The ARC can be reached at http://www.thearc.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=183
Just remember, most Autistic children have no idea how much you paid for something, so this gift TRULY needs to come from the heart, and with a little research before hand, you should be able to make the child’s Chrismas a happy one. But, as always with Autistic kids, you just never know how things will effect them-so just go with the flow, and enjoy what you can!!