It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With the holiday spirit in the air and an abundance of festivities to participate in, the holiday season is a magical time. Although it can be a joyful time of year, there is also much to prepare for when it comes to the holidays, including shopping for gifts for family and friends. For children, toys are usually a great option, but what if a child doesn’t necessarily like the trendy toys some other children enjoy? When deciding on what gifts to give a child with autism, there are a few things to consider before purchasing. We spoke with a couple of our BCBAs, Samantha and Caitlin, and our Manager of Speech and Occupational Therapy, Molly, to get their input on tips for holiday shopping, elements to consider to be sensory-friendly, and their personal recommendations for great gifts to give this holiday season!

When brainstorming what to purchase, our clinicians recommend observing the child’s behavior and making note of what they naturally gravitate towards in terms of senses. Do they prefer tactile-type objects? Are specific textures too stimulating? What about jumping around or swinging? What kinds of toys do they usually play with that spark joy? These answers will help determine what type of gift they might enjoy the most, while also helping to develop their skills.

Choosing gifts that are sensory-friendly is important for children with autism so that they don’t become overstimulated or have challenging behaviors while using or playing with the gift. a child tends to avoid sensory input, then a toy with increased auditory and visual input may be overwhelming. On the other hand, if a child seeks sensory input, then a gift that involves increased participation could help provide proprioceptive and vestibular input. Possible gift ideas for sensory seekers that are recommended by our BCBAs could be a crash pad, mini trampoline, weighted blanket, or therapy swingFor those who enjoy watching things for visual input, oil droppers, lava lamps, or a jellyfish lamp are great options to gift. Texture or tactile feel is another consideration for children who enjoy feeling things in their hands. Gift suggestions for children who enjoy exploring different textures are slime, putty, or Play-Doh. Overall, make sure to choose a gift that the child can enjoy with you, family, or friends to enhance the gift experience.

We compiled a list of great gift options for the special child in your life with autism or other sensory-processing disorders:

Gift ideas to enhance gross motor skills:

Gift ideas to help develop fine motor skills:

Gift ideas to spark creativity:

Gift ideas to practice communication and imaginative play:

Gift ideas for calming sensory fun:

Lastly, for the caregivers or autism advocates in your life, shop the BYS Merchandise Store! Our items are designed to show support and advocacy for the autism community and BYS, like ‘See the Able and Not the Label’ and ‘Putting the Pieces Together’, and this newest design created by one of our own BYS employees!

We hope that these gift tips and ideas help ease the stress of shopping and bring happiness to those that receive them. Have a great time gift-giving, and from all of us at BY YOUR SIDE, have a happy holiday season!