Gift giving occasions can be a bit perplexing when it comes to our autistic grandkids, but with a little know-how and a lot of help from their parents, we’ll be spot on every time.
When my autistic grandkids were very young, we were guessing about everything. We discussed diets, sippy cups, immunizations, types of fabric and toys. We looked for clues, leaving no stone unturned, in attempts to find connection points.
When it came to gifts, one of my autistic grandkids preferred quiet and still objects like books and stuffed animals or figurines. The other wanted lights, sounds and action as in electronic toys.
These may seem like your average preferences from child to child but there’s a difference. A soundless, lifeless toy for my granddaughter meant frustration and sorrow. It brought cry-downs and collapses into the corner. These were not mere temper-tantrums. They were displays of intense pain.
For my grandson, the bright lights, the flashing, and mechanical-sounding voices were alarming and invoked terror. He would drop the toy and run to hide.
He and my granddaughter never traded toys. Each had their own comfort zones and need for personal possessions.
Does this mean they couldn’t share? No, they gladly shared with other children. In fact, their beaming smiles, when someone else liked their super-hero or electronic speller, spoke of their delight.
Need some toy-buying tips for your autistic grandchild?
If your grandchild has trouble with speech, steer away from gifts that will frustrate with words or questions. Instead, buy a calming toy.
Gently moving lights, such as those projected on the ceiling or in lava lamps are good choices. Fidget sets are also a winner. Things that squish, spin, bend and vibrate can become the favorite.
Games that teach empathy or social skills are good when your grandchild is ready for board games and books that portray friendship building and life skills can prove to boost self-esteem.
One of the best tools for discerning your autistic grandchild’s interests is observation. If he or she loves to line up cars, dolls or other objects, think of something to add to that collection.
Best of all, edge your way into your grandchild’s world. If it’s time to look out the window, then that’s the “toy” for the moment.
If it’s touching every mole on your arm. Yep, you’re all in.