Present-giving is such a huge part of Christmas. I remember vividly the excitement that caused sleeplessness on Christmas Eve - then the joy of finding the present at the end of the bed in the morning... Much torn wrapping later, and the day was full of new toys, food and fun.
But present-giving can also cause tension. Trying to please everyone, trying to display pleasure at inappropriate gifts, arguments over money spent, offence at gifts returned.... we all want to avoid these things.
Gift-giving and children with disabilties
I recently listened to parents of children with disabilities discuss the difficulties of presents at Christmas-time. I thought it would be good to use this blog to help build awareness of the issues that we need to consider when giving gifts to children who have special needs.
Some things you need to consider:
- Narrow interests: One thing it is important to realise is that some children with disabilities have quite narrow interests. For example, a child with autism may only use items that have Thomas the Tank engine on them.
- Developmental appropriateness: You need to consider the developmental appropriateness of a toy - not just its age appropriateness. For example, some children who have vision impairments use their sense of taste to continue exploring their environment long after their peers have stopped mouthing toys. This means that toys with small detachable parts that might be age appropriate will not be developmentally appropriate for the child as they could be a choking hazard. Other aspects that need to be considered are the child's intellectual, gross motor and fine motor skills. Children with disabilities such as Down Syndrome or Autism may find it more difficult to hold pencils, pick up small items and play with things that involve threading, constructing and significant muscle control in the fingers. Others may find it difficult to balance and use the gross motor skills involved in riding bikes or climbing. And others may find the cognitive challenge of some games such as puzzles, board games, card games and craft activities, beyond their cognitive ability.
- Sensory sensitivities: Some children with disabilities are very sensitive to certain textures, sounds and even colours. Toys that do not align with their sensitivities will not be used, and may even cause them some distress.
So how can you make sure you purchase an appropriate gift?
The easiest way is to ask parents. They will be able to tell you about the child's abilities, interests and favourite toys. And don't be offended if they give you a list of specific things or places to shop for their children.
Here are two sites that were recommended by parents:
This Australian site provides a range of toys suitable for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Communiation and Sensory Processing Disorders, ADHD, Physical Disabilities and Cognitive and Learning Delays. They have toys priced from under $5 to over $100.
The toys include a whole range of things, from puzzles to computer-based games.
Another parent recommended this Amazon search entitled "Bestsellers in special needs multi-sensory toys."
Spectronicsinoz also has a range of games, though they are more expensive and generally educational. Here are some examples of their games: