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Great Gifts for people with Special Needs

Updated on September 9, 2012

Buckyballs stretched out


Think outside the box

As the Mom of an adult son with autism, I can tell you that every year I struggle to find great gifts for him. Even when he was younger, I spent hours going through the available toys trying to find items that would hold his interest. For my son this was particularly challenging because he spent quite a bit of time participating in what is known as "stimming."

Now that my son is older the challenge has actually gotten bigger. Children can carry various toys and other items without attracting too much scrutiny, but as they grow, this changes. And I personally feel it's important for my son to have a nice balance of blending into mainstream society while still being allowed to do whatever is needed to help him be comfortable.

With my son in mind, I wandered into Marbles: The Brain Store in downtown Chicago a couple of weeks ago. I was delighted with what I found. Being slightly overwhelmed by all of the various areas of interest I asked staff to show me items that might specifically appeal to someone with autism and went on to explain some of my son's attributes.

For starters, we looked at items that were very visual. Many people with autism respond extremely well to items that are bright and colorful. One of the items we played with was a puzzle called 36 Cube. It is a puzzle with pieces of various heights with different colors on the top. The object was to get the colors all in one row, while keeping all of the pieces at the same height. Puzzles can be a great gift for someone with autism. They provide both tactile and visual stimulation.

Next we moved on to music. There are many studies available that show the calming effects of music - specifically classical music. The benefits for kids and adults with autism are tremendous. Consider some of the CD's available from Mozart or Bach. They are inexpensive and can provide hours of joy.

My son has always been a very tactile person. He loves to touch and feel all types of materials. With this in mind, I really wanted to get him something that he could carry with him to play with and provide stress relief if needed. Again, several options presented themselves.

The Brain Noodles were a consideration. They remind me of extra large pipe cleaners. You can twist and turn them. They are a variety of colors and very inexpensive. What I love about these for my son is not that he will make elaborate designs with them but that they can be tucked into a pocket and pulled out when needed.

The item that ended up being my favorite though, was the Buckyballs. I LOVE these little guys! You can scrunch them up into a ball or a cube. Stretch them out into a chain. Break them apart into several little shapes. They're incredible! I bought these for my son, but I think I like them more than he does. Once again, they are compact, allowing to easily fit into a pocket, purse, backpack, etc. Buckyballs come in several colors.

Often, as parents of special needs children, I think we get wrapped up in thinking that the "specialty" companies that offer products specifically for people with special needs are the only places we can find great gift options. Don't let that be a limitation for you. You don't have to spend a fortune to give a great gift. Sometimes, a ball of yarn, a block of felt squares, a simple coloring book with crayons, is the best gift. Think about what brings that person joy. If you're not the parent or caregiver and just don't know, it's okay to ask.

Happy shopping!

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    • Theeyeballkid profile image

      Theeyeballkid 6 years ago

      Thank you vmott that is great advice. Many blessings to you and your son also. Happy Christmas.

    • vmott profile image

      vmott 6 years ago from Ozark Mountains

      @theeyballkid, For us, it has gotten a little easier as my son got older. There was a time when he wanted to carry around a small oscillating fan with the cover off so he could spin it. He loved to spin and was obsessed with the letter X. Over time we replaced that with airplanes and helicopters. The propellers allowed him to keep what comforted him. Try to branch the interest of numbers and ducks into others interests. Many blessings to you!

    • Theeyeballkid profile image

      Theeyeballkid 6 years ago

      Good, interesting hub. My little Boy is autistic and we have the same problem. At the moment he is obsessed with numbers and Ducks, it is difficult to know what to buy without feeding his obsessions.