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Great Gifts for people with Special Needs
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.
Marbles: The Brain
We’re a one-of-a-kind retail store with a smart collection of hand-picked, expert-tested, certifiably fun ways to a healthier brain for all ages. Our team is chock-full of smart, outgoing people who are passionate about learning new things and creati
What Is Stimming and Why Is It Common In Autistic People?
- To Stim Or Not To Stim? | Autism Support Network
In their effort to cope, those with autism may do things to calm their nerves.
- Why Do Kids with Autism Stim? « Autism Asperger's Digest
Why Do Kids with Autism Stim?, by Temple Grandin, Ph.D