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Gifts for Persons with Brain Injury

Updated on May 27, 2016

Welcome to my Gift Guide for Persons Living with Brain Injury

I've learned, over decades of having a person with a brain-injury in the family, that some gifts are surprisingly excellent because they offer alternative uses of the pieces.

Jenga's wood blocks can be stacked and used like children's blocks to build a tiny house, or stacked for the game described on the package. They are lightweight and can be used to figure out how many blocks can be held in one hand, for example. Some of these items will become favorites for your family too.

  • You can follow directions, ask your recipient to read and follow them, and share the responsibility, and the next time you play just try letting the conversation go wherever it leads.
  • At first, just looking at the game or project can be rewarding, leading to a conversation revolving around prior use of similar items.
  • As progress occurs, your loved one can be more deeply involved in some of the intricacies of the project. It's a fine idea to talk about each separate part, shape, color, size, and image found on individual pieces or parts of the item.
  • That means that even the explanation of the new Super Mario Brothers Wii game can mean exploring the visuals, reading the instructions, planning for installation and connection, in the morning, and the initial exposure to the game in the evening. You'll know how much you can get out of each part of the procedure - just enough to learn and enjoy, and not too much strain. Enjoy!

photo credit: I took the photo. See some artwork by TBI artist and read compelling story My Involvement in TBI rehab.

Pick-up Sticks Are Fun For All Ages

Get Pickup Sticks

Kaleidoscope Pick Up Sticks classic pickup game toy
Kaleidoscope Pick Up Sticks classic pickup game toy

Try Pick-up Sticks; they can be used to play the game or something as simple as to illustrate the meaning of the word parallel, or as a pointer to identify words or pictures in a book, on cards, in a newspaper. I Spy Books provide a wealth of wonderful images for guessing games, or for following a verbal game of treasure hunt, along with the usual game of identifying objects and describing where they are on the page.


The Ultimate Simple Tower Block Game

Hey! Play! Tabletop Wooden Wobble Stacking Game
Hey! Play! Tabletop Wooden Wobble Stacking Game

Jenga was the first game I played with my adult son, during his TBI recuperation. An aunt chose the gift for him, and right from the start, it was a winner.

He was still at a low level on the coma scale, yet he was aware of people and his surroundings. His speech was limited, and words and meanings got mixed up, so this nonverbal game was a perfect choice.

Loud noises startled my son, so I placed a terry towel under the rack of wood blocks at the start of the session. It effectively dulls the sounds of cascading blocks on hardwood or formica table (like a hospital over-bed table).

As with all games I use the parts, the blocks, as conversation starters. I may ask him to just look at the tower and and say whatever words come to mind. If no words do then I may relate the shop elf the tower with the shape of his university dorm building. From there we might talk about the elevator that took his dad and me up the seven floors to his room, and how we needed only to follow the sounds of the music to locate his open door.

If that's all the energy he had for the session then we've accomplished something warm and meaningful, memories of college and family. Next time we might handle the blocks and talk about butter or about the wood floor in our old home.

Following the rules only applies if the task is instruction-sheet reading and implementation. We can find meat for conversation out of any object or sight. But I also like Jenga and can't help but transmit that feeling to my game companion. Decades of rehab later, my son loves this game.


Wii is Used for Brain Injury Rehab

Engage Yourselves With Story Cubes

Rory's Story Cubes with FREE Dice Cup by Gamewright
Rory's Story Cubes with FREE Dice Cup by Gamewright

This story generator is super useful, for sparking your imagination and that of your gift recipient, in storytelling. Pick up some cubes, arrange them in your order, and spin out a tale. For rehab use, work as a team, or even simply create your own story, using the cubes.

Shake them up in the dice cup, and sprinkle them out on the tabletop. Then comes the cogniitve fun. My son truly enjoys story-making experiences. These cubes have simple images, in black on white. It's a kick to arrange the cubes and even to take turns telling the same story. A wonderful tool, a supercharged toy.


Spotlighting a Beautiful Desktop Basketball Set

CHH Wooden Basketball Table Top Game
CHH Wooden Basketball Table Top Game

If your gift recipient loves basketball as much as my son does, you will thank your lucky stars that you found this great wood basketball set.

The net is real metal, with a little ball. Even though it is tiny, it's a powerful rehab tool, as long as the person with brain injury is not at risk of pica, or eating nonfood objects. This isn't a child's toy, but for a TBI survivor who knows that it's a game and not food. Even though my son knew this was his old favorite sport, complications of his injury could easily led him to pop the ball into his mouth. I watched him carefully and always knew where the ball was.

Just seeing the set while in a hospital room following skull reconstruction surgery, his spirits were lifted, so we got wonderful results before even exploring play on a micro scale.

As with other games and even toys that don't look infantile, the session begins with focus on one part of the game, on a feeling, or on a memory, and it expands to include stories and facts about him playing the sport, watching it at college, and a myriad of other stimulating topics.

Fine muscle groups are called into practice, bouncing the small soft foam ball and swooshing it into the net. We used it in a closed controlled setting, on a over-bed hospital table, or on a desktop or tabletop where all the parts remained visible.

If your partner is a high functioning adult who doesn't eat non-food items such as the ball or the net, s/he may enjoy having the set on display. The big advantage of this game is that it looks great sitting out on the table, countertop, or desk. You need to be the gift-giver with good judgment to make the call as to how it is used. For us, the game is out when a responsible adult is directly present, and packed away out of sight the rest of the time.


Get in Some Good Laughter for Colorful Therapy

US Games Fun-Air Scoop Ball
US Games Fun-Air Scoop Ball

When choice is an issue for the person living with brain injury challenges, this colorful Scoop Ball set offers the family member a choice of colors. If range is limiting, start standing very close together, and simply toss (or drop) the ball to the other person's Scoop. Eventually you may find that you, too, naturally increase the distance between both players.

I bought a set like this a couple decades ago when my son was moving through rehabs. What I found is that he loved the idea of the game and we got a lot of giggling in when starting each period standing face-to-face at arm's length and just dropping the ball into the other person's scoop. Eventually we'd step back in unison and talk about following directions, or classroom protocol for such a game, and relish the fact that we could make the rules here.

During breaks do as we do - take time to talk about the color of one of the Scoops, and elaborate on connections with that color - items, foods, books, balls, etc. that share the same color. Spell the color, and count the number of letters in the color name. Use every cue you come across to venture off in a new direction. The game is the starter, not the end. Celebrate it all!


Sturdy Fullsized Portable Basketball System - get in the game and exercise large muscles

Lifetime 51550 48 Inch Portable Basketball Hoop
Lifetime 51550 48 Inch Portable Basketball Hoop

Try a game of Horse for rollicking good laughter and fun. Even if your loved one who is struggling with TBI challenges is not ready to shoot, herself, she will enjoy seeing you take her place, and the visual encouragement can't be beat.

Take your time and guide your family member through the movements that will result in his handling the ball, even if you are guiding his hands, and you make the follow through that results in sinking the ball.

My son could entertain himself for long periods with the shorter indoor basketball game when he was at an early inpatient rehab where they kept one of these in their multi-purpose room.

Get a brightly colored basketball, like the one shown below, to provide visual stimulation, like following the ball with his eyes. This will pay off in stress relief as you both improve your game!


Single 5"' High Easy-grip Shaker Bell

Hohner Kids / 5" Handled Cage Bell, Colors Vary
Hohner Kids / 5" Handled Cage Bell, Colors Vary

Designed as a kid's toy, this shaker is handy to include as a stimulation and learning tool for adults too. Reach your loved one through sound and rhythm. It will be easy because if your family member is limited in arm movement, you may begin using it for them, as you recite a favorite poem, or song lyrics. When you count, use the bell to emphasize ten, and twenty, and thirty.

The big hole in the handle may fit over a sock covered foot while the TBI survivor is bedridden and used to bring their attention to the sounds. Later on they can be asked to count with the bell, or keep time to music being played on phone or recorder.

For the wheelchair bound person it can be wrapped onto a shoe top with a velcro strip. Just be sure it is fastened on the outside of the ankle and above the bottom of the shoe, and it cannot come loose. Remove it when your session is finished so it doesn't become a hazard if the person can get out of the chair.

Endless possibilities include: ring the bell when you enter the room, and offer it to your loved one. Loop it around a free finger. You are sure to hear any movement. Watch for a change in pupil size and sense of awareness, when you ring the bell. Eventually it may work for a little game of catch, from a short distance. When you leave the room you may want to hang it on a hook for safety and for decoration.


Wooden Egg Shaker Looks, Feels, & Sounds Good - made under ethical working conditions


Get multiple sense stimulation when you present this egg-shaped musical Shaker. The smooth tactile quality can help relieve frustrations, just by handling it.

The surface reminds me of a slice of apple wood my son cut in his junior high woodworking class. He sanded it ultra smooth and finished that off with some oil and untold rounds of power polishing. It's purpose was to look pretty and feel calming.

When an instrument looks attractive and feels pleasant to the touch, it is all the more encouraging to "get the beat" with it. Sounds made by the egg shaker are crisper than they are mellow, a rounding punctuation to singing, or just counting or keeping beat to music that is playing.

For some adults, even as they reach much higher levels of rehabilitation, anything that looks like a toy is viewed as an insult. Not so with an Egg Shaker of this quality.


Here's the Best Gift of All for a Person With Limited Mobility

Enjoying Mobiling on a 3-wheel cycle
Enjoying Mobiling on a 3-wheel cycle

3-Wheeler Builds Confidence and Muscle

All too often persons who suffer disabilities spend long inactive days in family or group homes where staff fail to provide adequate stimulation and exercise, but here is one solution that may increase physical fitness. It works for my son.

The large wheels and the triangular wheel base provide a means of stability that helps to compensate for poor spatial judgment. In my observation, riding an adult trike feels like riding an Adult 3-Wheeler.

Riders can move from here to there, transporting water bottles, athletic equipment, street shoes, or groceries from the car, and find everyday purpose in the activity.

*ensure that an able bodied person accompany any rider with cognitive issues, and provide a stylish helmet too, because even though the cycles have great stability --- they can still tip.

Three Wheel Adult Bike

Kent Adult Westport Folding Tricycle
Kent Adult Westport Folding Tricycle

All too often persons who suffer disabilities spend long inactive days in family or group homes where staff fail to provide adequate stimulation and exercise, but here is one solution that may increase physical fitness. It works for my son.

He's continues to be in a long-term rehab setting where he regularly rides his own three-wheel bike around a circular driveway. This physical activity has resulted in toning his core, and fitting him into smaller pant sizes. I observe him sitting taller and taking pride in his mobility when riding. Such a bike is definitely in my future.

The large wheels and the triangular wheel base provide a means of stability that helps to compensate for poor spatial judgment. In my observation, riding an adult trike feels like riding an Adult 3-Wheeler.

Riders can move from here to there, transporting water bottles, athletic equipment, street shoes, or groceries from the car, and find everyday purpose in the activity.

*ensure that an able bodied person accompany any rider with cognitive issues, and provide a stylish helmet too, because even though the cycles have great stability --- they can still tip.


Sure Savings on I Spy Books

During Vision Therapy following an accident my vision therapist used these books with me. When the eyes are out of whack from a jolting car collision it even affects one's clarity of thinking, and information processing.

Visual processing injuries are interesting. I remember puzzling over how the way I was seeing or mis-seeing the world was altering my perceptions and slowing me down. Because I'm visually oriented anyway the extra effort seeing took was exasperating and it exhausted me. Timed exercises helped to retrain my brain and recover my visual abilities.

They are not toys, but sophisticated visual narratives that work for adults (and kids) at higher levels too. One can test oneself at any moment, by selecting a type of item and counting those illustrated on any page.

These books are top notch. I like them best because of their wonderful photographs of objects that are a delight to look at.

The real fun comes in the interaction with your loved one with TBI, taking turns to "find" objects, and talk about them. Explore this series and you'll add it to your special library. Everyone can enjoy and benefit from them.

I Welcome All Your Comments - Happy holidays!

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    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @favored: Thank you. This is the cause of my lifetime.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      4 years ago from USA

      Came back to retweet this :)

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @TreasuresBrenda: Thanks. I picked items that I would enjoy playing with or using with the family, including the one with the injury.

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      4 years ago from Canada

      A great resource for anyone looking for gifts for people who have experienced a brain injury.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @norma-holt: It is sometimes a challenge to find items that provide appropriate challenge and provide great opportunities for stimulating conversation that don't look like we're treating the recipients with kid toys. Their dignity is often sacrificed at the get-go and never retrieved. Thanks for reviewing my selection.

    • norma-holt profile image


      4 years ago

      This is a horrible condition for any sufferer and these gifts are quite appropriate.Well done.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @RoadMonkey: Yes, I always look for gifts that my adult son can use, have fun with, and that I can use to stimulate memory and conversations.

    • RoadMonkey profile image


      4 years ago

      Some great gifts here, many I have never seen before, yet they look like good fun for all.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @smine27: Oh yes, the gifts are really for the general population, but because of my close experience with a family member who suffered a massive TBI, I was able to select items that can be especially good for them too. My son usually wins when we play Jenga!

    • smine27 profile image

      Shinichi Mine 

      5 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

      This is a great collection of gifts, some that are even perfect for me! Jenga was hard even for me. ;)

    • iwrite100 profile image

      Maribel Forayo 

      5 years ago from Philippines

      Useful suggestions. I appreciate the effort you exerted in elaborating on each item.

    • MBurgess profile image

      Maria Burgess 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Love the butterfly items! The instructions you have presented with each of the products are very helpful. Neat lens!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      There are so many degrees and variations of brain injury... and you've included quite a range of possibilities. I'd perhaps add a gift subscription to Lumosity for memory boosting.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      This is a good resource. A home spa experience is a good idea.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @lisln: I appreciate hearing form you. Thanks for sharing and may you continue to be blessed.

    • lisln profile image


      5 years ago from Denver Colorado

      Oh I love this lens the guy that is in my life now is a brain injury survivor. I do believe that he is such a blessing and joy we have grown so much together and on top of that he is good with my special needs daughter :) he is a gift. This lens has a lot of gift suggestions that I may not have to go so far to look for in the future hehehe

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      5 years ago

      Excellent gift suggestions.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @ChroniclesofaWa: That why, when I saw the beautiful wood set of pick up sticks at the co-op I couldn't resist buying them, and then sewing the bag, for a hostess gift.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You reminded me of those pick up sticks which I enjoyed then. :)

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @RosaMorelli: Yes, these gifts work well, especially if the giver takes advantage of the strengths the player displays to help them in their cognitive growth.

    • RosaMorelli profile image


      5 years ago

      Fantastic gift ideas for something that can happen in so many ways - illness, strokes, accidents - really well thought-out. Lots of fun and useful too :)

    • takkhisa profile image


      5 years ago

      You have thought about everything! Great lens.

    • LouisaDembul profile image


      5 years ago

      These were great gifts for persons with brain injury, as well as the rest of us!

    • ismeedee profile image


      5 years ago

      There is so much here to choose from for brain injured people to really have fun over Christmas and after...

    • neotony profile image


      5 years ago

      very helpful and useful ideas and just in time to find that perfect gift for someone who has gone through this.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago

      @MintySea: Thanks for the comment. Some people are surprised at how even a seriously injured person can respond to appropriate gifts.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      These are all great selection of gifts to help persons with brain injury get back on the right track.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      good ideas thanks

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @karen-stephens: Thanks Karen. We have so many more people with TBI now, and many family members wondering if there's anything they can do.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: Thanks for the linking. i think many nursing home patients would love to have such stimulation.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @SteveKaye: Thanks Steve. It's true that most people with TBI can benefit from our treating them as if they are very capable.

    • lesliesinclair profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @floppypoppygift1: Thanks for the positive feedback. Every brain injury is unique and your dad was lucky to have you.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Suffering a stroke or brain injury truly does require some serious adjustments. During the two years after the injury it is vital to challenge the brain to take on new tasks.

    • floppypoppygift1 profile image


      6 years ago

      My dad was stricken with a brain injury at a young age but he never tired of trying to stay active, play with us kids and think positively. These gifts are all perfect pics! Cheers~cb

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What a wonderful catalog of great ideas. Thank you for publishing this lens. I'm sure many will find this helpful.

    • Angelina Gherna profile image


      6 years ago from California

      really well done, great gift ideas!

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      6 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      Like vallain, I too think that the Story Cubes would make a great gift for someone with TBI. Angel blessings!

    • karen-stephens profile image


      6 years ago

      Thank you for the interesting lens.. what an important topic! And..and inspiration to all who wish to help injured people

    • savateuse profile image


      6 years ago

      very interesting lens, thanks!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      I'm going to link this in with my Gifts for Nursing Home Patients. I particularly like the idea of the Story Cubes.


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