Make Gift-Giving Occasions Easier for Your Child with Autism

Make Gift-Giving Occasions Easier for Your Child with Autism

Most parents love the excitement of watching their children open gifts, regardless of the occasion. After all, we put a lot of thought into choosing just the right present, and children often enjoy the suspense involved in seeing a package all wrapped up, tearing unto the paper, and uncovering a new treasure.

For kids with autism, however, gift-giving occasions aren’t always joyous and fun. For some children, it can be stressful or even scary, and it can be hard on parents as well. Naturally, you’re not going to stop giving your child gifts, but there are ways to make the experience a little easier on everyone.

Focus on Your Child

Whether you carefully handcraft each gift you give your child or you stand in line for hours waiting for the hottest toy of the season to hit the shelves, you put a lot of thought and effort into giving your child the perfect gift. Shopping for kids with autism can be particularly difficult, because they often have very narrow, focused interests. You may need to let go of the idea that you’ll give your child the “perfect” gift, so that you can find the perfect thing for who he is. April Haley, a mother of three boys including two on the autism spectrum, explains it this way: “We wrack our brains for that one awesome gift, and if it’s a bag of beans, so be it.” Work with his interests: if your child is all about basketball, for example, think outside the game. Consider a book about his favorite player, a poster of his favorite team, or a few lessons from a local high school hoops star.

It’s Not All it’s Wrapped Up to Be

Some kids just don’t get into the whole unwrapping thing. You can hand them a wrapped-up package, and they wonder what you expect them to do with this odd, brightly-colored cube. Other kids might actually dislike the sound of tearing paper, or the idea that something is hiding under it. Try using gift bags instead of wrapping paper, and if even that is too much for your little one, do what Haley suggests: just hand him the gift, unwrapped.

Keep it Chill

If your child gets overwhelmed by too much sensory stimuli, it’s probably best not to set him in front of a pile of gifts while a dozen pairs of eyes look on and voices from all around ask him what he has and what he likes and what he’s going to open next. Hand him one gift at a time, and let him discover what’s inside each one at his own pace. It may even be necessary to put off the opening of gifts until after the festivities are over, when there’s not so much going on.

Be Prepared

One thing we love most about kids with autism is how honest they often are. That trait can backfire when gifts are being exchanged, however. Remind your child in advance that even if he doesn’t care for a gift or already has one, all that he needs to say is “Thank you.” Speak to the gift-givers as well, and remind them that these can be difficult situations for your child, and that he may not be able to express his appreciation in ways that they’re used to. Have thank-you cards ready, so that your child can sign or personalize them soon after the occasion.

Make Gift-Giving Occasions Easier for Your Child with Autism
-April Fox, Staff Writer

Carolina Pediatric Therapy © December 2013

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