Monday, December 2, 2013

Holiday Lists?

This time of year a bunch of different lists go around, with "ideas" on what to buy your autistic child for the holidays. I'll admit, it can seem more difficult than buying for a typical child who has a list a mile long (or B, who just circles everything in the Lego catalog), but it only becomes an issue when we try to think of gifts, instead of looking to our kids.

K rarely offers up gift suggestions. I can walk her through Toys R Us or Target, and she'll just wander the aisles, not really choosing anything. Once in a while she'll pick up a toy, and I'll ask her if it's something she'd like. Her answer is always "I don't know." It used to drive me mad. I had no idea what to buy for her. I'd try to figure out what kids her age liked, thinking I'd somehow hit the gift jackpot that way. I ended up with way too many toys she never played with, and a lot of money down the drain.

Then I stopped trying to think of things she would want, and started looking at the things she likes. She likes arts and crafts, so one year my sister bought her some plastic bins, stocked with goodies from the craft store. She loves animals, so I started getting her FurReal Friends, and gift cards to Build-A-Bear. Do we need more stuffed animals? Absolutely not. Does she love them like they were her children? Absolutely.

K is also a sensory seeker, so she loves things like Moon Sand and Orbeez. You will often find those toys on those "special needs" lists, but the thing is, some kids will hate them. B, my sensory-avoider, doesn't love getting messy or sticky, so some of these "fool-proof" toys don't work for him.  

This year K is obsessed with My Little Pony, so almost all of her gifts are related to that. Sure, maybe some people think it's weird to have every single gift be the same thing, but that's what K likes right now. Why would I try to mix it up just to mix it up?

B, as I said before, is never lacking for ideas. He makes me take photos of almost every toy we pass, and wants everything from every catalog that we get during the holidays. With him, it's more whittling the list down. I find he forgets about a majority of the things he says he wants, and sticks with what he really likes. Dinosaurs (this is his "thing", like animals are K's "thing"), Legos, any type of vehicle-all big hits with him. They are also things he will actually play with for a long time.

The truth is, there will never be one list that will be a good fit for every autistic child, and when we try to think of gifts on our own, it can be a giant fail. Watch your child. Don't be afraid to hone in on the stuff they like (it doesn't have to be viewed as a bad thing), and it will be much easier when you hit the stores. All of our kids have special interests, it's part of who they are. Playing to those will make them happy, and lessen the stress we feel around the holidays.

So I say forget the lists! Don't waste money on things a complete stranger says your child should enjoy. You know what your child likes, even if it's 10 cans of shaving cream to play in, or a long rope to pull things around (yes, B owns a long rope to pull things around.) The holidays will be a lot more merry (and a lot less stressful) when we let go, and "listen" to our kids (even when they don't say a word.)

1 comment:

  1. Buying for my son is extremely hard too. In the past we've given him things like cards and coins. Lately we've been getting him more clothes than anything.