We all know that Christmas can be a tricky time when it comes to our child/ren with autism.
The loud Christmas music out and about.
The queues everywhere which means making a simple trip to the shop is now a nightmare.
No car parking spaces meaning longer trips in the car.
The bright lights and shiny musical decorations.
The lack of understanding about what is going on is a killer, you want to include your child with a visit to Santa or a simple family group photo to mark the occasion but when they have little to no understanding of who Santa is or what Christmas is about, your heart does sink a little.
I think last year when Bodhi was two that was probably my toughest time, as he should have been aware, even picking up on the girls excitement and opening presents or even seeing what Santa left Christmas morning but there was nothing. Also he was just diagnosed twelve days before Christmas so it was all a bit raw.
It is hard then to explain or try and get family and friends to understand that even though they have the very best intentions of getting him a present or a toy, he wont use it at all.
It was all new to us, what he showed interest in, what we should even get him ourselves as his parents and how to navigate the conversation with your nearest and dearest of could you not buy him toys please in the most grateful, yet sensitive way.
With all of that in mind, I have decided to put together a list to help either parents with newly diagnosed children or family and friends out there who would like to buy something thoughtful which may be of benefit to the child’s needs. As each child is completely different some options may suit better than others and I would always recommend if you are family or a friend to maybe ask the parents first (as they do know their child best) what they would recommend if you are at all stuck.
- SENSORY INFLATABLE ROLLER WHEEL
PROS: This Sensory Inflatable Roller Wheel is a fantastic tool for helping to teach colours, shapes, about hand eye co-ordination and spatial awareness. It also helps with cognitive and visual perception skills, co-operative play, helps with their physical strength, visual stimulation and more. It comes complete with a collection of colourful balls inside that move around as the wheel rotates. It can hold up to approx. 5 stone 7lbs (80 pounds) in weight., has a 39″ diameter and comes with a pump.
CONS: It is made from durable inflatable plastic, although this means it is suitable for use both indoors and out, it could mean a lot of pumping if you have a child, like me who could break iron!!
: Round about the €50 mark on ebay plus delivery here
2. SENSORY BODY SOX
PROS: A sensory body sox is a great tool for children with sensory issues and who may need to develop body / spatial awareness. It has an amazing therapeutic effect when they are overwhelmed as it creates a safe haven and a place where they can go and be calm and hide out for awhile. It is made from lycra, is super stretchy and breathable!!
CONS: This may be something a child realises they do or don’t like after the purchase/fact and they come in different sizes, so you would need to know what size exactly to purchase for the child to get use out of it.
: I have found a small size on ebay here
for €40 including delivery which is a great price as the same size are retailing for €70 on some sites!
3. INDOOR TRAMPOLINE WITH SAFETY NET
PROS: I actually bought one of these last year for Bodhi and it was one of the best things we ever got him. It is small enough to stay inside, it has the safety net so he cant fall out and the damage he can do is minimal. He gets to burn off all the extra energy he has and also it is great for them sensory wise.
CONS: You definitely need a space in the house where it can stay as you cant put it out of the way or fold it up, if you have good weather though in warmer months it is light enough to carry in/out side. This particular one is only suitable from ages 3 to 6 years and has a weight max of 45kg. You need to put it together yourself.
: Just under €60 including delivery on ebay here
4. SENSORY LIGHT
PROS: This calming sensory light is ideal for children or even babies who love the calming effect of lights, waves and the sea. It projects LED wave like lights across the ceiling as you lie in bed, I have one myself and found it a great purchase. You can either use batteries or plug it in, it also has a plug for a small stereo speaker if you want to play music. It plays for an hour and automatically turns off and you can plug your ipod, mp3 or smartphone into the stereo speaker, I never actually used the music option as we never needed to so cant comment on how good this speaker works etc..
CONS: You can order from China, pay less and wait longer for delivery but if you have any issues with the item it is kind of harder to have these sorted when they are so far away. Or you can pay a little bit more for purchase in the UK and have it delivered quicker like I did.
: Roughly €16 from China here
and about €25 from the UK here
5. MELISSA AND DOUG – SEE AND SPELL
PROS: This is a great tool for any child who loves jigsaws, colours, the spelling of words and puzzles. It challenges them to seek and find the letters to make the words which in turns tries to develop a sight reading vocabulary. It is also great for helping with their fine motor skills also. There are 72 letters in the case and 8 two sided cut out boards to help them spell three and four letter words.
CONS: If your child is a thrower or loves to launch things, this may be best avoided for a while yet until they learn to use it properly. It is recommended from the age of 4 up.
: I found it on the Argos site for €17.99 here
and currently reduced from €26.95 to €17.95 on the Fuddy Duddy site here
6. MAGICAL TEEPEE
PROS: This teepee can be used as a tent and a little safe haven when things get a little overwhelming, it comes with a light which has a display when you pull the cord. I know Bodhi loves to sit with the buggy cover pulled down past his head when he has had enough of people or likes to sit under an umbrella inside and may like this but I have not purchased it myself. I was looking at just a regular teepee on ebay to add my own light to as this one seems to have a cord which I am iffy about as he has no concept of danger.
CONS: You need to assemble yourself and the reviews are mixed on the Smyths website. Recommended age 3 to 8 years but I would imagine if you had smallies in the house they would be inclined to go into it too.
: €39.99 on the Smyths website here
7. HARNESS BACK PACK
PROS: These are great for any little escape artist or those of us with children who have zero concept of danger. These backpacks tie around the front and also have an adjustable and detachable strap for parents who may or may not need to use them. It can be good to use in a shopping centre or out for a walk to give them their independence yet have a hold of them in case they try and run off. This back pack would also be good to help with grounding if it had some heavier materials inside to give the same benefits as a weighted vest and blanket.
CONS: Not sure of the quality or the size, so make sure to check out the link for full details before you purchase! Also you will be waiting a few weeks for delivery.
: €7.50 including delivery on ebay here
8. SLIM FIT PJS
PROS: These are a god send in my house, Bodhi loves the tight fit and the fact that they have cuffs. He holds onto the cuffs when he is trying to self soothe, calm himself or drift off to sleep. He loves the compression of the slim fit and I find even though the ones in Penneys can be quite good it is very hard to find ones which fit him properly as he is quite tall but very slim. So they are either too long and baggy or too small. They have them in Next but they can be quite pricey, although if it is for a gift then it would be a one off purchase and a good investment. So there are plenty of different prices to choose from.
CONS: If you have a tall slim child some of the sizes and fits can be off and then it defeats the purpose if they don’t fit properly. If you order below you may be waiting a few weeks. So it may be worth your while searching the local shops if it is in time for Christmas.
: They seem to have a good selection for both boys and girls and up to 9-10years here
on ebay for €7.40 including delivery
9. PECS – Picture Exchange Communication System
PROS : An amazing set up and system for those of us with non verbal or pre verbal children who find it easier to communicate with us through PECS which is basically pictures of items or actions to help lessen their frustration in communicating and us not understanding. So you can have a little key ring of a few which you carry with you and you can show to the child or the child can point to you their needs or you can have over a hundred little ones which you can use on a Velcro board which can be great for things such as shopping or helping the child with their day and to know what is happening next.
CONS : The only con I will say here is that you need to be on board with the child’s parents and perhaps, school or learning environment be it speech and language therapist or their occupational therapist to make sure you are using suitable ones and maybe ones the same or very similar to which the child is using already. You couldn’t just arrive with your own made up (although the effort and thought would be very sweet I am sure) and expect the child to learn the different system or pictures that you have etc routine is of paramount importance to children with autism so make sure you are all on the same page!
: I am sure you can make these and download the images, print them off and laminate them yourself quite easily. For those of us with no such time, inclination or facilities though you can get them on ebay, the key ring type here
for €22 including delivery or the 190 plus little images to be used on a Velcro strip here
for €18 including delivery.
10. SPENDING TIME
PROS : Our family and friends seem to be a little apprehensive sometimes about volunteering or offering to take our child out and about, when the word “autism” is used. Some run for the hills, some stop contacting you, some pass a comment every now and then online about how well he is doing, how big he is getting but have probably met your child once or twice at most.
We get it, it is understandable, you are afraid of the child kicking off, having a meltdown and not being able to know what to do in that circumstance, how to calm the child down and sometimes the thought alone just freaks you out so you don’t offer at all. But hear me now, we are not asking you to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, one hour of you calling to our home and getting down on your hands and knees and doing a puzzle, singing a song, or following our child’s lead is huge for them and for us.
It means our child gets to know you better, develop a relationship with you, a familiarity and a bond which means a whole lot to us but even more to them. They do pick up on not being asked to parties, events and the normal things that kids do. An hour here and there in the house where they feel secure could lead to going out to the garden, using the swings and slides, stomping in puddles, to then going out for a walk, to maybe going to the park etc.. Bodhi actually behaves better for my family and friends out and about then he does for me.
You have no idea the difference just one hour of your time can make to parents when we are having a week of meltdowns, constant screaming or difficult behaviour. Knowing a one hour break is coming up keeps us going and is as important to the child as it is for us. You come in fresh and ready for road and we get a well earned break to help re charge the batteries. It can also help us have some one on one time with our other children outside of the chaos of the home and having to tend to their siblings every need.
CONS: It will possibly lead to more than one hour of your time if our child really likes you, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for you, it certainly wont be a bad thing for us.
PRICE POINT : Priceless
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people, just a mom of five in Cork, looking for similar earthlings going through the same shit day to day, trying to keep sane speaking in fluent sarcasm and wit!!