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What to consider when buying for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

1. Does the child seek out certain textures? Soft blankets, stuffed animals, or toys offering a variety of textures might be a good idea. Or, ask the parent if the child would like a weighted blanket. Note that making a weighted blanket is cheaper than buying one.

2. Is the child known for liking a particular subject, object or animal. If so, then ask the parent what sort of thing (book, stuffed animal, game-related, etc.)is best to buy.

3. Gift cards can be OK depending on the individual, but be aware that some people with ASD become overwhelmed in stores because of sensory problems (bright lights or loud sounds, for example). It took a long time before I was able to bring my son into certain stores without worrying about him having a meltdown.

4. Clothes can be OK also, but note that certain textures like wool or the tags in clothes can be bothersome. If using socks as a stocking stuffer for a friend or relative, please realize that the seams at the ends of socks have the potential to drive some (not all) people with ASD crazy. Blue Jeans may feel “itchy” or may be alright, but again it depends on the child. Buying clothes in the child’s favorite color or texture may also be a good idea.

5. Take the child shopping for their gift. A shopping trip with a person with ASD can work out well–especially if someone who is familiar with meltdown triggers is along for the trip. Some stores may work out better than others, so ask the parent what stores to go to or what stores to avoid.


Consider avoiding these types of toys:

1. Does the child have any sensitivities to sound or light? Toys that blink and/or make loud sounds may make the child with autism uncomfortable.

2. Does the child still put toys in his or her mouth? If so, you may consider avoiding toys with small pieces and toys with magnets.

3. Large toys may be tempting to buy, but storage is often presents a problem for parents (not just the parents who have children with ASD).

My favorites:

1. Art supplies.
2. Books. They store away easily. Children with autism seem to really appreciate nonfiction books, but fiction can be great too. For younger children, I’d suggest books from the “Best Me You Can Be” series or from the “Mr. and Miss” series by Roger Hargreaves. The former provides great social tips for youngsters and the latter is a cute little fictional series that puts an emphasis on emotions. Books with flaps and textures are also a good idea for younger kids.

3. Small sensory toys. Balls with nubby textures and vibrating toys that operate by pulling a string, etc. have been played with by both of my boys.

4. Easy games with not a lot of strategy involved. Hungry Hippo is a favorite , Connect Four is a good one too because one doesn’t have to
play the game. My boys used to like dropping in the checkers and/or making patterns.

5. Clothes.

Most children probably prefer toys, but some like to get clothes aswell.

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Research Shopping Tips for Children with an Autism Spectrum Condition.