4 gift-buying tips for special needs kids

Ryan Judd’s guest post about music combined with Ellen Seidman’s guest post on playing with kids got me nostalgic for life with our son Gus while he was growing up. Gus was born with physical and developmental disabilities, and when he was little, friends and family members who wanted to give him a gift or a toy were never quite sure what to buy.That’s Gus with his Grandpa when he was little. Gus is 27 years old now. (The photo to the right is Gus with his Grandpa when he was little.)

Gus is 27 years old now. I tried my best to convince them that picking out a gift for a child with special needs is not as hard as they might think—children with special needs have interests, just like everyone else.

Trains? Wheels? Springs? Maybe they like bugs. Or maps. People sometimes think that when buying for a child with special needs, you have to find something unique to children with disabilities, but that’s not always necessary. Here are a few shopping tips:

  • Before choosing a gift for a child with special needs, ask him or her what he likes, and, in some cases, get ready to hear an earful!
  • If you can’t ask the child directly, contact the parents—most are happy to let you know what their child is particularly fond of.
  • Siblings can also be a great help in telling you what their brother or sister with special needs likes—and what they don’t like.
  • When shopping for children with special needs, you might try thinking out of the box—consider shopping at hardware, music, or office supply stores.

When Gus was growing up, friends and family ended up buying most of his gifts at Radio Shack—Gus loved cassette tapes and handheld tape recorders. He’d take the recorder in one hand, place it near his ear, transfer it to the other hand, place it near that ear, transfer it to the other hand, place it near that ear … you get the picture.

Occupational therapists liked the way it increased his hand-eye coordination. Speech therapists loved how Gus learned to express his preference for certain music and sounds. Physical therapists liked playing a tape and placing his recorder across the room to motivate Gus to amble over there to find his music. We liked his cassette recorder, too. Know why? Because Gus did!

Please consider leaving any gift and gift-buying tips for special needs kids in the comment section here—I’m all ears!


 

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