ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Choose a Present for an Autistic Child

Updated on May 31, 2013
Opening birthday presents
Opening birthday presents | Source

Every year, we have a birthday party for my son, and the number one question I get asked is, “What should we get him?” Everyone knows that he’s Autistic, and he’s not like the other kids his age who are being invited. Even family members struggle with what to buy him. What makes it harder is that he doesn’t really have many “wants” like other kids his age. We have the same problem when we attend parties for other kids his age who are on the spectrum because, as you may or may not know, every child on the spectrum is very different. So just how do you pick out a present for a child on the Autism spectrum?

Talk to the child

When this is an option, it’s the best one. Ask the kid him or herself! Of course, this assumes that the child is able to answer questions or is verbal. This isn’t always the case, and sometimes the question may fall on seemingly deaf ears or the child may ask for things that aren’t appropriate (a train, a motorcycle, a building). If you can get an answer, though, don’t be surprised if it isn’t something you expected – many kids on the spectrum have different interests than their peers.

Autistic Boy Plays with Thomas the Tank Engine Toy

Talk to the parents

This might sound basic, but it’s something that people often forget to do. Ask the parents – what is it that the child is currently playing with? My son, for example, loves to draw with crayons. It’s a basic present, but buying him a big pack of crayons and some nice drawing paper does the trick! The parents might also have suggestions based on things that the child has shown an interest in, such as certain Lego sets or Thomas the Tank Engine, both of which are often good presents for children on the spectrum.

Slinkies rock at any age!
Slinkies rock at any age! | Source

Appeal to interests, not age range

If you can’t ask, then think about the interests the child has as opposed to how old he or she is. At the age of 10, my son is still interested in Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer. While most 10 year olds may scoff, buying my son a Dora doll or a Blue’s Clues notebook would be excellent for him. When you look at toys, ignore that pesky “Ages 18 months and up” on it. Think about what the child likes, what he or she is capable of, and what he or she enjoys. It may be “too young” for them, but don’t let that stop you. It’s not about what it says on the box; it’s about what the child would like.

Think about sensory issues

Many children on the spectrum may have certain issues with different senses. For example, my son does not like squishy things as a general rule (although he loves Play-Doh – go figure!). Some children do not like loud noises or music. Others don’t like flashing lights or may have an additional disability, like epilepsy, that would make toys with flashing lights inappropriate and potentially dangerous. If you aren’t sure about what issues the child has, you can ask, or you can buy toys that are not too soft/squishy or loud.

Drums! | Source

Consider their talents

All children are different, and children on the Autism spectrum are, too. Do they play the piano? Do they play soccer? Do they build rockets? Do they build robots? Do they make massive and elaborate marble runs? Don’t assume that Autism means that they don’t have age-appropriate (or even older) talents. Even children with more moderate and severe Autism may take part in sports or Special Olympics. My son, for example, bowls with Special Olympics every year.

Include a gift receipt

If all else fails, buy what you think is a cool present, but include a gift receipt. It might turn out that the child doesn’t immediately fall in love with the toy, and there’s nothing wrong with letting him or her pick out their own gift. (Of course, you can also just get a gift card, but isn’t there something fun about opening up a present instead of just an envelope?)


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 

      5 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      This is a great article! You have provided some very worthwhile tips. Thank you for sharing. Take care. (Voted up) -Rose


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)