The shopping season is in full swing as the holidays have whipped everyone up into a cheery frenzy. You probably have a lot of people on your “nice” list that you need to find the perfect gifts for. If you have a loved one with autism, picking the perfect gift for them this holiday season can be daunting and even frustrating. You imagine purchasing cute clothes or the latest gadgets for them, but those gifts cause over stimulation and make your loved one uncomfortable.
Navigating the holiday season in a comfortable manner for someone with autism can be difficult for family members, especially extended family that aren’t as well informed about their specific needs. Everything from travel, gift giving, traditional holiday activities, and even baking or crafting can be a source of anxiety and frustration.
Luckily, the massive network of experts and families have created a roadmap to navigate the holiday season, while making it fun and exciting for the whole family. Lexington collected the best of the best, so we offer you this guide on the best gifts, activities, and make-it-at-home goodies for loved ones with autism. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
Sensory Friendly Gifts
- Air-Lite Ball Pit from Fun and Function- a cushioned, sensory friendly ball pit which improves body awareness and sensory integration
- Sensory Sox by Sanho Yopo – known as the “time in” sensory product, the sensory sock improves body and spatial awareness, helps with self calming, and heightens movement creativity. Plus they look super fun!
- Fidget Cube from Antsy Labs – Glides, flips, rolls, and clicks for maximum tactile enjoyment.
- Liquid Motion Bubbler from Super Z Outlet – Descending soothing bubbles that provide endless hours of calming visual entertainment.
- Lava Lamp – There are a ton of models on the market, but this classic novelty light is really great for children with visual sensory needs.
- Gears! Gears! Gears! Starter set from Learning Resources – Connect and build this set for visual entertainment while improving fine motor skills and problem solving skills.
- Air-Lite Barrel Roll from Fun And Function – A rollable flocked-covered vinyl barrel that helps improve balance, motor planning and sensory integration.
- Skycurve Hanging Platform Rope Tree Swing by Hearthsong – A large swing with a sturdy frame that can fit multiple children, can be used indoors or outdoors.
- 3’ Trampoline from Little Tikes – A great 1 person trampoline with a safety handle for stability.
- Chewy Cubes from ARK – “Chewelry” is the new option for people with oral sensory needs. Strong products appear just like stylish jewelry but can be chewed on.
- Spikey Soft Glove Visual Sensory Fidget Toy by Magical Land Store – Made of super soft, stretchy non-toxic material that allows for proprioceptive input.
- Noise Reduction Headphones by Fun And Function – These headphones are meant specifically for children with autism and others with auditory processing disorder. They are comfortable and great for crowded places.
- Rainmaker Toys – These toys offer calming sounds for auditory needs and help develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
While all of these products are great for kids with specific sensory needs, this is not an exhaustive list. Many children with autism benefit from weighted blankets, which help to calm and comfort them.
Clothing is a huge point of contention for children with autism and we can’t make specific suggestions for the broad range of children. Most kids do not like itchy tags or invasive seams, so those are important to watch for. You can look for clothing made specifically for kids with sensory needs from companies like SmartKnit Kids and Kozie clothing.
If you know your child’s needs well, incorporate them into your gift giving. If you are, say, a grandparent that might not be fully aware of all their specific needs, then a little discussion with their parents and some pre-planning might be a good idea.
Fun Holiday Activities
Here are some fun things that you can do this holiday season with your loved one. Some should be familiar and some might be new to your family!
- Tree decoration – If you decorate a tree for Christmas, make sure your child gets in on the action. Don’t push the activity too quickly though. Instead, maybe take a gradual decoration approach. Pull the tree out and set it up by Thanksgiving and put a few ornaments on every day until Christmas.
- Autism Friendly Santa – Millions of children are penning their wish lists to send to the jolly old soul as this is written, but some kids are not as apt to fight the mall crowds to meet Santa. Caring Santa is a program that caters to people with special needs, sensory issues, and developmental needs and he will be at the Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe for the first two weekends in December. You can also visit Santa at Park West in Peoria on December 9th from 10-12 pm for sensory safe time.
- Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings – Lots of families see movies over the holiday season. Christmas day is one of the biggest theater days of the whole year. Luckily for kids with sensory needs, Harkins Theaters offer Sensory Friendly Screenings once a month.
Depending on how your child handles certain stimulating circumstances, there are a lot of things going on during the holidays that might be perfect for your family’s needs.
If your loved one isn’t up for heading out into the fray for holiday activities, you can always stay in and craft up something fun. Here are our suggestions:
- Peppermint Playdough – Fun to play with and has a great seasonal smell!
- Paper Chains – A holiday classic.
- Santa Wreath – A festive, simple and easy to make wreath.
- Make Your Own Snow Globes – Everyone loves snow globes!
Something To Be Thinking About This Season
This guide is not comprehensive or perfect for every child. We think of autism on a spectrum for a reason and what works best for one child will not be the best thing for a different loved one. People tend to get reminiscent and idealistic in this holiday season, picturing times gone by, but it’s important to remember that the needs of a loved one with autism must be taken into account. Don’t feel frustrated if you have to make adjustments to your holiday plans. You can accommodate the whole family’s holiday plans and make the holidays fun for a loved one with autism by just making simple adjustments.
At Lexington Services, we prioritize our members and their needs so they can thrive in their daily lives. From helpful advice like this, through in-center or home based services, to quality alternative education for students with autism, we are a comprehensive source for your loved ones. For more information, contact a staff member today.
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Happy Holidays from Lexington Services!