Gifts on the Spectrum

It’s Black Friday, and time to think hard(er) about gifts for the kids. Especially as big sister’s birthday comes right before Christmas and James’ is shortly after New Year’s. Aaaaaand the property taxes are due right before then, so we really need to shop wisely because there’s not much moolah to spare.

Add to that the fact that finding presents for James is a challenge. I’ve seen him rip and eat books, puzzles, and flash cards. He looks politely at cars and trucks, for the most part. If he can push buttons and have things light up and make loud noises, he’s all over it for about 5 minutes at a time. Unless it’s driving me crazy or waking the family, then make that 15 minutes, minimum.


He loves computers, clocks, and CD players. He also loves to rend them into pieces, if given half the chance. My little boy, the Destructor.

Some of the best toys for him have come from therapy sessions. We’ve gotten more mileage from an ice cream scooper and tongs with a bowl of cotton balls than the expensive LeapFrog read-along electronic gadget. It took 3 years before he became engaged with the super LeapFrog magnetic fridge Word Builder.  I could go on …. and end up with the sad memory of James’ Christmas just before he turned 3, when he looked at the presents, but did not get excited about them, let alone want to open them. I seriously cried that Christmas morning because he’d recently been diagnosed, and this was like a knife in the heart.

But things got better. James became more engaged, and this year he’s reading, doing math, and started some imaginary play. I’ve scaled back my expectations and become more philosophical about what will make this child happy.

I’m still thinking of toys, however!

So I was very happy to see this Special Needs Toy Guide by Emily Vanek, mentioned in Five Minutes for Special Needs.  We’ve already had good success with a number of items listed in her guide. There were some misses too, but that’s because kids are different and special needs means, well, the antithesis of “one size fits all.”

Oh yeah – he loved these things for years!Here’s what James has liked: Connect 4 and the piggy bank (although we just used a regular one that we had lying around the house). Sensory balls and ordinary balloons have been huge hits. My husband found one of those Fischer Price play kitchens at the Salvation Army and brought it home for our daughter.; both kids ended up loving it. James also loved the Singing Popup character toys.

He did not care for the large building blocks (or wooden blocks or regular Legos). He likes Play Dough but starts to crumble it all over into tiny bits. It’s just not work the clean-up for me.

I think I’ll take a more focused look at what James has liked. That will not only help me zero in on what might be good to get him, it could also help others.

What kinds of toys have been great for your special needs kiddos?

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For James
A Blog to chronicle our son's journey through developmental delays and dealing with austisic disorder.
For James


A Blog to chronicle our son's journey through developmental delays and dealing with austisic disorder.

One thought on “Gifts on the Spectrum

  • December 2, 2011 at 10:08 pm


    There is a great website with tasks for children with autism –  

    There are 96 educational products that are designed to help to develop different skills. They are tasks that are completed in left to right format. All are new and original designs. They and are each highly visually structured, and they are designed to help to develop different skills.


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