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Sensory-Friendly Holiday Gift Ideas

Here are some holiday gift ideas for children with autism or sensory difficulties.

Does your child have Autism or a related disability and experience sensory difficulties?  Or, does your child have Sensory Integration Disorder? If so, your child has difficulty integrating certain sensory information from the body’s five basic sensory systems.  As a result, they may avoid/fear certain sensory input or they may seek out specific sensory input.  This differentiation is identified as sensory over-responders (children who avoid certain sensory information) or sensory under-responders (those that seek out sensory information). 

For children who are sensory under-responders, they may engage in play activities that vary slightly from their peers. This can make it challenging to determine appropriate holiday gifts that they may enjoy.  The type of sensory responder (over-responder or under-responder) or the area of the sensory difficulties (proprioceptive, auditory, visual, vestibular, tactile, etc.) will determine the toys that will best fit your child.  Below are some gift ideas for children that are under-responders (i.e. they seek out this type of sensory input) in the various sensory areas:

  • Proprioceptive input can be obtained by lifting, pulling, or pushing heavy objects or by receiving pressure to the child’s muscles and joints. Therefore, some great holiday gifts ideas for a child who is seeking this input may include a grocery cart, stroller, beanbag, trampoline, stability ball or a child-sized vacuum/lawnmower. 
  • Auditory input includes access to sounds that are pleasurable and comforting to the child.  This can be provided by a sound machine, radio/cd player, musical instrument set, or piano. 
  • For children who seek out visual stimulation, toys that include various lights (electronic toys) and movement (characters and such who dance and sing) may be appropriate for your child.  Other gift ideas include items that spin (tops and/or spinning ball toys) or items that involved balls rolling down a track such as with certain ball toys and marble tracks.  
  • Vestibular input can be provided by spinning, swinging, or hanging upside down. For children who seek out this type of input, toy ideas may include a spinning chair (i.e. Bilibo), a Sit ‘n Spin, a Dizzy Disc, Jr., a swing, or a playground set. 
  • The tactile sense detects touch, texture, temperature, and vibration. Therefore, some tactile-friendly gift ideas may include finger paint, shaving cream, a bean/rice box, stress ball, sandbox, Playdoh, modeling clay, a tent, tunnel, or toys that vibrate/jump. 

All in all, finding the toys that your child absolutely loves is a priceless gift for parents over the holiday season.  So, find out what your child tends to seek out and buy toys that fall into that category.  If you know of any toys that your child can’t live without, please share it with our readers by leaving it in the comment section below. Happy shopping!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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