What Is a Good Gift for a Child With Autism?

Sometimes, the best gift for a child with autism comes from a mindful approach and out-of-the-box thinking. Here’s some smart advice to get you started.

The holidays are on the horizon and you’re planning to give a gift to a child or teen with autism, but where do you start? Whether it’s the holiday season or an upcoming birthday, you may be wondering where to start in choosing a gift for a child with autism. How do you know what is a good gift for a child with autism?

We reached out to Jamie McGillivary with all of our questions. She’s a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and President and Founder of Healing Haven, an ABA therapy center for children and teens in Madison Heights. Just in time for the holidays, McGillivary offers her expert tips and suggestions.

Q:

In your experience, what are the main concerns people have for selecting a gift for a child with autism?

A:

People are concerned about getting the right gift. It’s a lovely gesture to give a gift, but if you lack knowledge about the individual child, you may dive right in and select a gift based on the child’s chronological age. And for some kids, this is OK. But not for others. Understand that the gift you land on isn’t necessarily going to be the same gift you’d choose for a neurotypical child of the same age because their developmental and chronological ages are not always paired up.

Q:

It’s best not to make assumptions when selecting a gift?

A:

All children have different interests and kids with autism sometimes have very unique interests. If a child loves sticks and pinecones but receives a complex Lego robotics toy, what message does that send to the child’s parents? It can hit the pain button for parents, and the last thing you want to do is make a parent feel dismayed by a situation. If the child’s likes are not so traditional, it’s OK to think outside the box!

Q:

Let’s talk about some options that don’t fit in the typical toy category.

A:

Some children may not understand the concept of receiving a present, so it’s OK to expand your thinking a little bit. If the child likes animals, it might be nice to purchase a pass to the zoo. Think about gifting something the child can do consistently and gain meaning from. Maybe you can give the gift of your time to the child and the parent, too. You can create a coupon to take the child to the movies or the park or wherever else might be fun for the child.

gift-giving-guide-for-child-or-teen-with-autism

Q:

Share your thoughts on why giving an experience can be more meaningful than a toy.

A:

We encourage people to think back to their own childhood. It is often the moments we spent with people we remember fondly versus another toy that is tossed aside by the next holiday season. Many children today are craving quality time with someone who appreciates them and cares about them. The holiday season is a great time to spread love and and joy with family. That gift of time can mean so much and can often be more valuable than money.

Q:

What can gift-givers be mindful of when they are making their choice of a gift?

A:

Be aware of the moments and the memories you are creating.If you ask me what my grandma got me when I was a 6-year-old, I can’t remember. But I can remember making cookies together. So, for the child who loves pinecones, you can buy a basket and plan a pinecone hunt together. That’s quality time! Understand that you can be flexible. This can be hard because holidays are often steeped in tradition. However, sometimes our circumstances require us to forge new traditions that can be equally as wonderful and important.

Q:

What are some other ideas for a good gift for a child with autism?

A:

Parents love having an extra hand, so you can offer to take make dinner for them or offer to take the other children in the family out for a while so the parents can spend time specifically with their child with autism. We also have witnessed grandparents who donate to their grandchild’s ABLE account or 529 plan. Others may help financially cover co-pays or deductibles or therapies that aren’t covered by insurance, like art therapy or music therapy. Some parents love this, but others don’t, so be sure you know the family’s wishes. If in doubt, just ask!

Need some specific suggestions? Check out this “top gifts” blog from Healing Haven.

Expertise provided by Healing Haven. Learn more about Healing Haven’s unique ABA therapy programs for children and teens, ages 2-young adult. Visit thehealinghaven.net.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Metro Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.

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