The Best Holiday Gifts for Autistic Children

    November 19, 2021 No Comments

    Holiday Gift Guide

    I recently collaborated with some wonderful SLPs, OTs, my son, and parents on instagram to bring you our recommendations for the best holiday gifts for Autistic children (or ANY children). Some of our collaboration included children and adults who are actually Autistic, in order to get their unique perspective.


    Our household is a neurodiverse, fun, unique, melting pot! We’ve got a little bit of everything and a whole lot of love. I kid you not- this is the photo we selected for our holiday card this year:

    At our house, we often “think outside the box” when it comes to holiday shopping. Some of our children enjoy traditional, store-bought toys and some don’t. We like to look at each child’s interests and either purchase or create something that they might truly enjoy. Some kids are hard to shop for. Each year, I tend to google “best toys for Autistic children” in an effort to find something, anything to be inclusive for all of our kids. So, I’m thrilled to help put all of this into one spot!

    Holiday Gift Guide from an Autistic Perspective

    I was absolutely thrilled that Rachel Dorsey, Autistic SLP offered her time and energy to put together this instagram post. She helped me to think outside the box about ways to approach shopping (or creating) in order to give Autistic kids and adults what they really might enjoy.

    Rachel had some great suggestions for looking at what the child does to determine what they like. This was helpful for me (and honestly gratifying) as a parent, as it made me feel like we were on the right track in our home!

    Chewing:

    If the child likes chewing playdough…..try taffy.

    If the child likes sand….try pop rocks, crushed rock candy.

    If the child likes inedibles (eek!)….try costume jewelry secured in cheesecloth.

    *Always Supervise Mouthing/Chewing

    There are prefabricated “chewy devices” and sometimes these are very successful. However, it’s important to consider the type of things the child typically chews. A rubber chewy may not be a satisfying replacement for a child’s shirt, but a washcloth might work .

    Lights On/Off:

    Small Flashlight (the one pictured below was created by my husband: it was embedded into a “busy board”…the flashlight is activated by the light switch)

    Light up Toy with Single Push Switch

    Hanging Holiday Lights

    Fluid Simulator App

    Fluid Light Projector

    Opening/Closing Drawers and Doors:

    A solid box/container with a secured door/opener

    A child oven/stovetop

    A child car with opening and closing doors (that can be pushed around)

    A mailbox (my husband made the one pictured below: he purchased a life-sized mailbox but made a tiny post)

    A busy board with doors/compartment (this was also crafted by my husband-can you tell what one of my husband’s special interests is? He and our son may open a specialized “toy store” one day 🙂 )

    Holiday Gift Guide for Filling and Dumping!

    This collaboration was with Suzanne from Playing Speech.

    Toys for filling and dumping:

    Piggy Bank

    Fish Bowl

    Dump Truck

    Shape Sorter

    Sand Box Toys

    Cookie Jar

    Collaboration with Lucas, age 8:

    I’m sorry to all of my other collaborators, but this one was absolutely the most fun! Lucas seemed to have SUCH a good time with this. He wanted to make videos and photos for every single favorite toy and we could have listed 1,000 things. We narrowed this post down to “spinning”, but we are going to add a one more favorite thing that lights up and makes noise…because it is just so much FUN! The last toy on the list was not designed to spin, but by golly…Lucas can make it spin!

    “I love to spin!” by Lucas:

    Spinnyo Roller Coaster

    Tether Ball

    Giant Fidget Spinners

    Spin a Letter

    Hover Soccer Ball

    Pinwheels

    Hess Trucks (Not pictured): these are traditionally released each holiday season. They are not designed to spin…but some kiddos have a gift for spinning anything. These toys light up, make noise, and are very durable. They release a different version each year. You can find some of the older ones on ebay and amazon.

    Spin Again Stacking Toy (Featured Below)

    Holiday Gift Guide for Outside Fun!

    Our next collaborator was Kristin- OT with Coastal Connections OT. This post offered ideas for getting great sensory input for a variety of functions…while having fun outside!

    Outdoor Toys:

    EZ Roller: great for motor planning & vestibular input

    Swings: Suacer and Pocket (Vestibular and Proprioceptive Input)

    Go Find It: Scavenger Hunt for Sensory Exploration & Ocular Motor Skills

    Pogo Jumper: Proprioceptive Input & Postural Control

    Garden Tools: Heavy Work & Upper Body Strengthening

    Bug Catcher: Fine Motor, Visual Motor, & Ocular Motor

    Holiday Gift Guide for Hyperlexia and Kids who LOVE Letters!

    One of my favorite things about my Autistic child is his mind-boggling ability to read! This is an amazing strength for many kids…and also a favorite thing (or a “restricted interest” as the mean ‘ol medical jargon says….I prefer favorite thing). I collaborated with Andi of Mrs Speechie P to come up with toys for our letter-lovers out there!

    Favorite Toys for Letters:

    Acorns by Learning Resources

    Fridge Phonics by LeapFrog

    Popsicle Matching by Learning Resources

    Letter Puzzle

    Make a Word Puzzles by Melissa and Doug

    Alphabet Magnets

    Holiday Gift Guide for Sensory Fun

    This was a fun collaboration with another Mom and SLP, Tanya with On A Mission SLP. She helped me come up with some great ideas for sensory seekers. It’s important to remember that children who demonstrate sensory seeking behaviors (rocking, jumping, crashing, lining up, looking at things sideways, etc) need this sensory input. So let’s give it to them! This can be referred to as stimming. We should not stop stimming, we should help provide needed sensory input. This helps our sensory-seekers to be integrated, calm, and most importantly: happy!

    Sensory Toy Ideas (*with supervision):

    Trampoline: If your child likes stomping, crashing, jumping…get this!

    Rocking Horse: if your child likes rocking…get this!

    Water Beads: if your child likes watching things fall through their hands or scattering…get this!

    Wind Up Toys: If your child likes twisting things, cause and effect…try this!

    Whack a Mole: Full transparency…this toy is LOUD…but it is a lot of fun. ALL of my kids drive me nuts with this toy love this one.

    Pop Up Toys: if your kiddo likes cause and effect…go for it! (Me- I’m like Buddy the Elf and jump when I open a can of biscuits…so beware)

    Not Pictured, but also great ideas!

    Basketball Hoop: If your child likes throwing…get them an over the door goal!

    Kinetic Sand: If your child likes playing with dirt, letting things sift, scattering…try this!

    Holiday Gifts for Core Language

    Core Language vocabulary consists of the words we used most often. This collaboration with Abby from The Type B SLP provide both ideas for toys and how to incorporate language opportunities while playing!

    Toy Ideas for Core Language:

    Critter Clinic

    Toy Garage with Keys

    Door Latch Puzzles

    Spin Again Stacking Toy

    Animal Bubble Blower

    Pound a Ball

    Marble Run

    Holiday Gift Ideas for Kids who Love to Throw

    Do you have a thrower at your house or in your classroom? I sure do! I strongly believe that my kiddo throws things because he *needs to*. It provides him with sensory input and it makes him happy! For years, I got notes from his school trying to stop this “behavioral problem”. I tried to reframe this thinking, asking that they put up a basketball net in his classroom. I was met with resistance, as this was seen as “behavior” and not as a sensory need. Three years later….there is a basketball net in his classroom and he has his needs met safely using this.

    Tricia with Sunflower SLP is also a Speech-Language Pathologist and mom to a kiddo who loves to throw. She helped me collaborate to come up with a list of toys that help provide this fun sensation and need for our favorite little throwers.

    Toys for Kids Who Love to Throw:

    Basketball Net

    Velcro Dart Board

    Inflatable Ball Pit

    Toss Across

    Foam Gliders

    Bean Bag Toss

    We tried to select toys that would work inside without causing a lot of damage. I’d also add that we’ve had a lot of success with protecting our televisions and devices with strong cases and cut fiberglass with binder clips (for televisions).

    You can find many of these items on amazon, but some may be less expensive at Target or other retailers.

    Happy holidays from my family to yours!

    eheplerslp

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      Prior Speaking Experiences

      -Guilford Child Development: Autism in the Early Childhood Setting
      -Cheshire Speech and Voice: Effective Tools for increasing Sensory Integration for Speech/Language Intervention; Autism
      -Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute: Autism
      -CHIPS Greensboro: Autism for Professionals
      -NCSHLA: Teletherapy (Including the Parent Perspective)
      -Telepractice Today: Podcast (Parent and SLP Perspectives)
      -UNC Chapel Hill: Guest Lecture
      -Abled Not Labeled: Presenter (Intro to Neurodiversity)
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