Sometimes getting presents for the special children in your family can be challenging. If you’re lucky, they’ll like the same things as any other children their age. Sometimes they’ll like the same things as other kids, just maybe not their age. That’s straightforward enough. But if you want to get something specifically aimed at their sensory or other issues, you may need some ideas. Here are some things that I found were the best gifts for special needs children.
First, I can recommend a mini-sized trampoline. Do not buy the inexpensive ones you can find at Walmart or other chain stores, unless you just want to try it out to see if they like it. The inexpensive ones will break very quickly. We went through 3 of those in quick succession before we found a high quality one that is rated for therapeutic or athletic training purposes. The Needak Rebounder is made in the USA and has an excellent customer service department.
If your child is like mine, she may bounce very hard and very long on the trampoline. Even the rebounder will have parts break with this kind of use. The company, however, is very good about honoring their warranty and will send replacement parts quickly. In order to minimize the need for that, I would recommend getting the black mat and the non-folding frame. For some reason, the blue mat does not hold up as well and I wouldn’t trust anything that folds around these kids (Murphy’s law). The only downside to the rebounder is that it is expensive (over $300). Still, therapists will attest to the value of this sort of deep pressure activity to calming a child as well as stimulating her language development. It doesn’t hurt that it burns up a lot of calories and energy. You should always supervise your child on a trampoline, of course.
Second, a fairly inexpensive gift, suitable primarily for an elementary school age child, is a body sock. There are a number of different kinds of body sock, including the name brand Body Sox and the generic body sock.
Basically, it is a large stretchy nylon bag with a velcro seam up the back that you can climb into. Because it is stretchy, it puts pressure on your body as you move around in it. If you have claustrophobia, you won’t like it, but you can breathe through the fabric so you aren’t in any real danger. Deborah and I would each get into a bag and play monsters with each other. It was a lot of fun. She also enjoyed climbing into the sock with her blanket and stuffed animals. It seemed to comfort her. Recently, there was an incident in Ohio where a child was hurt when they fell while in a body sock. That could happen because you can’t see well and might trip. It constrains your feet. Deborah and I would only use the sock for crawling along the floor or rolling around. You should supervise your child when they are in it so that they don’t hurt themselves, but it can be fun and help her with her sensory issues.
Third, I would recommend the old stand-by, play dough. If your child can tolerate glutens, you can use either the brand name Play-doh or other brands like RoseArt. You can even make your own using any number of recipes you can find online. When my daughter was using play dough, she was on the gluten-free/casein-free diet, so we couldn’t use those. I found special play dough called Colorations from a discount school supply company. It worked very well and was not greasy the way homemade gluten-free play dough can be. I can recommend that brand highly. Now, there are other choices, so you can look around on the web for more options. Obviously, all manner of tools and accessories can be found to go with play dough, so you can buy whatever your child would find most interesting. Working with dough is extremely good for your child’s fine motor skills and hand strength. It’s fun that can help with their development as well.
Fourth, if you’ve got the money, the iPad is great. I’ve already written about the value of the iPad in Best Toys for Autistic Children: the iPad with Hay Day. There are so many great apps out there that I couldn’t possibly write about them all. You do have to be careful to set up the parental controls. I gave the basics for how to do that in Toys for Autistic Children: How To Do Restrictions on the iPad. With each new revision of the iPad’s operating system, the rules get a bit different, but it’s still pretty easy. Apple’s parental controls are some of the best in the business. You need to be careful to control the amount of time your child spends on the iPad, since it does not promote social development very well.
For more ideas, you can check out Linda Hodgdon’s newsletter about it, Top Ten Favorite Gifts for Kids. Have fun shopping for the best gifts for special needs children!
© 2013, Margaret. All rights reserved.