Saturday, November 27, 2010

Buying Gifts for Autistic Children

I'll be buying Christmas gifts for several autistic children this year. I'll buy gifts for my son who is 15 and autistic. I will also buy gifts for my dear niece who is 4 and autistic. I will also buy small gifts here and there for children of friends.

Who knew I’d become an expert at buying gifts for autistic children? I never would've guessed that autism would hit so close to home. It's a little different when you buy a Christmas gift for an autistic child in some ways it can be easier.

For example, my son has such an intense interest in jets and Star Wars that it's easy for me to find him gifts. The trick is to get these gifts early before stores run out of things. When my friend buys a gift for her autistic child, she has to start really early because he has an intense interest in bridges.

My son, like many autistic children, is highly visual. Visually interesting gifts are always a big hit in our house. This year I'm going to give him a sand panel. Colored sand smoothly glides down when you flip it over. It's relaxing to look at and will look nice in his room. Also, many of the junior high age neighborhood kids have seen it and confirm that it is “cool”.

For my autistic niece there is a sense of urgency in terms of her gifts. My parents have asked me to help pick out her gifts because we are hoping they will be enjoyable and therapeutic.

Victoria is now four and has been involved in a wonderful early intervention preschool as well as an intensive behavioral program for a couple of years. Her vocabulary is limited, but she is starting to talk. Recently she put four words together. She said, “look da spider look” and motioned for her mom to see the spider on the wall.

Here are the Christmas gifts I've found for Victoria. These would probably be good gifts for autistic children in preschool. Actually, they would be good gifts for any preschooler since they were not developed specifically for autistic children.

Alphie Robot. Alphie comes with tons of cards that you place on his tummy. He asks the child to pick the right color, object, number. He gives immediate praise for correct answers, asks the child to try again if they miss and will provide the correct answer. He makes several happy faces. I think he will be great for expanding vocabulary and creating an interest in faces for

Victoria. Right now she doesn't understand emotions at all so I'm hoping the simple smile and Alphie’s cute eyes will lay the foundation and interest in learning about emotions.

Photo Match-Ups There are lots of memory games to choose from I like this one the best because it has photorealistic pictures with the white background. Memory is a game that works well for visually oriented people so she should enjoy it. The large selections of cards should also help work on expanding her vocabulary. The best way to play this game is to systematically introduce new cards as soon as she learns the vocabulary of the card she is playing with.

Where Is Puppy Listening Lotto should be a good gift to help with auditory processing as well as teach prepositions. Since Victoria is pointing at objects now is probably a good time to start introducing prepositions. Plus the puppy is cute and she likes puppies.

Basic Skills Board I love this board by Melissa and Doug it's great for teaching kids dressing skills. Plus it's fun because when you undress the Bear you find him in his underwear. It's good for helping develop fine motor skills and I hope will encourage Victoria to dress herself.

One month away and I’m proud to say I’m done with my Christmas shopping. Now I will focus on baking, enjoying my family and celebrating the birth of Christ! If you still need to pick up some presents please visit our Autism Shop!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Spinning Toys and Autism

Many children with autism love spinning toys. However parents are concerned about giving their children spinning toys because they don't want to encourage self stimulatory behavior. If you've ever watched your child's stare at a fan for an hour it can be heartbreaking.

However, I do feel there is a place for spinning toys and autism. Spinning toys can be great reinforcers in an ABA program. Or spinning toys can be a very enjoyable Christmas gift or birthday gift. When supervised properly spinning toys can actually be helpful for children with autism. For example, having a spinning toy that the child really enjoys in your purse can be really helpful when you need to get some last-minute grocery shopping done. Or letting the child play with the spinning toy may allow the whole family to go out to dinner.

As you can probably tell, I'm from the standpoint that nothing is black-and-white. Anything can be used as a tool to help a child with autism or to help a family make it through the day.

With that said here is a list of my favorite spinning toys for autism:

Light Spinners: spinning lights flicker and change when you hold down the button. There is a large sized light spinner and a small sized light spinner. The large-size light spinner is nice for ABA programs or as a gift. However, the mini light spinner has a breakaway necklace so your child with autism can wear it when you're running errands.

Any kind of light twirler. At National Autism Resources we carry an airplane twirler. (I guess I'm biased because of G’s overwhelming preoccupation with airplanes.)

Light up Mini Fans: Can I just say I love light up mini fans! Just press the button and the fans start spinning and the lights light up. These are also nice for times when it’s hot outside. They can be very helpful for a child who enjoy spinning toys and has to ride the bus when it's hot. Also the blades are plastic so if you touch them they don't hurt. They are also on sale now at National Autism Resources, which is nice!

Tops: there are all kinds of tops to choose from in all kinds of shapes or sizes. Some Tops make music or even light up when they spin.

My all time favorite spinning toy is the Spectra Rail Twirler. Why is it my favorite? I guess for a couple of reasons first of all both my children love it. Once you get it going it's really fun to watch and play with. I myself enjoy playing with it, especially when I'm bored, or watching TV.

So that's my take on spinning toys for autism. With Christmas coming if you're a parent and you feel like your child would enjoy a spinning toy, don’t feel guilty about it! At the end of the day children are children and a gift is a gift. If you feel your child with autism would enjoy a spinning toy I say go for it. It may help you when you're in a tough situation and your child will enjoy it. Also, if you reading this I'm sure you're a good parent. You're trying to figure out what's best for your child. If that's your motivation then I'm sure you will allow your child to use the toy appropriately.