Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holiday Gift Ideas for Special Families

Many of us have children with special needs who already have enough “stuff” or we really need to concentrate our resources on things that can help them with various issues. My children are now grown, but over the years I’ve accumulated some nifty ideas and thought this was a good time to share some of them. Some ideas are for the children. Some are for the children to give to others. Some are for the parents.

I love the idea of a child opening a gift which shows they have just sponsored a child in another country, or an animal at a nearby zoo they can go visit. Then there are activity ideas (like "tickets" saying they will be going to the zoo) rather than toys they won't use. But there are lots of useful things mentioned below. Some expensive, some inexpensive. At the bottom are some things really needed by us parents when we are overwhelmed!

The best idea for your holiday shopping is to think of the "therapeutic needs" of your child and find "tools" to fit the need.

Fine motor or visual-spatial challenges:
- arts and crafts with small items to manipulate
- Manipulative games such as Perfection, Operation, Jenga, etc. (These were recommended to us by an OT evaluating my younger daughter).
- puzzles (there are some easy 3-D stick-together wood puzzles. My kids loved the dinosaur ones).
- Easy magic tricks (self working) build self-esteem as they astound friends and relatives

Need for exercise?
- interactive Wii and Kinect games
- bicycle (check out the gyrowheel),
- rollerblade,
- exercise mat,
- exercise equipment
- small exercise trampoline
- punching/kicking bag (see Wavemaster) - remember the gloves!

Academic type special challenges?
- Leapfrog and equivalent items
- Puzzle books with connect the dots, or hidden pictures
- Interactive books

Sensory issues?
- bean bag chair,
- calming things to look at (sparkle wand, kaleidoscope, bubbles, sand
- Tactile play (squishy balls,  play foam,  sand station to draw in
- “fidget toys” can be found in toy stores, dollar stores (go to and look at fine motor and fidget toys for ideas)
- Therapy balls to roll around on
- Trampoline
- swings / glider chair / hammock
- Self supporting small tent, provides private calm space to retreat to with a flashlight and book.
- heavy comforter for the bed (which can also be used to help calm because of the weight),
- CD or MP3 player (which can be used to listen to favorite music to help calm),

Challenge to go to sleep?
My daughter loved music. She liked relaxing before falling asleep by listening to classical music.
- Recorded (audio) books.
- CDs or downloads with nature sounds or calm music or guided relaxations
- Aromatherapy pillow bags.
- Microwavable warm bags (I made some filled with rice)
- Colored light pattern changing thingy
- Look at for ideas.

Challenge to wake up?
- Unique alarm clock (such as for the deaf)
- Dawn simulator
- Look at
- Amber sunglasses for evening use before sleep  (see Sleep: Timing of Melatonin, Light, Dark, and Use of Other Aids  )

Long car rides lead to  issues?
- Travel games
- Sing-along children’s songs
- Recorded books
- Books
- MP3 player and head phones
- Hand-held games

- “Happy Lights” (as we called them) – Full spectrum lights for well-used areas of the house.
- 10,000 lux light boxes (SunSquare + SAD Light Therapy Light Box 10,000 Lux) See The Sunbox Company for more products
- High density negative ion generators (see
- “1,400 Things for Kids to Be Happy About” (book with categories of lists of wonderful things to trigger ideas, and lots of spaces to personalize a child's own favorites)
- Journal or art supplies
- Bubble bath 
- Bottles of natural flavoring to make hot milk-type drinks or even icy drinks from fresh-fallen snow.
- stick-on wall decor for a quick bedroom redecoration

Older child with lapses in responsibility?
- Pay overdue library fines
- Pay off finance charges

- Art supplies,
- donate money in their name to charitable organizations such as NAMI
- "gift certificate" for one-on-one special activities with a parent (such as go out for breakfast, bowling,  go to a movie, play, or concert, "paint your own ceramics" place,  bake cookies, go on a hike, do a craft, or play mini-golf.
- subscription to a monthly magazine.
- Jackets, clothes, gloves, pajamas, night socks, huge bath towels just for them, cool bed sheets with matching comforter or curtains, sunglasses.

The greatest gift children can give others? They can give their time to others.
- babysitting,
- lawn mowing,
- snow shoveling,
- cookie baking,
- housecleaning
- caring for pets.

The Gift of Time:
And don't be ashamed to answer truthfully to family and friends wanting to know what you most want as a gift. Usually that answer is TIME!  Respite care? Housecleaning?  Help organizing and filing medical insurance claims or taxes? Grocery shopping while you treat yourself to a needed haircut? An outing with friends, without the kids! Let them know what would be most useful!

Lastly, here are some BOOK ideas  for for a sensitive girl child: CLICK HERE FOR CHILD'S BOOKS
and a link to BOOKS I suggest you give the parents!!!                CLICK HERE FOR PARENT'S BOOKS

Property of:      It's Not Mental
Last Updated:  27 November 2011

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