15 Mom-Approved Gifts for Kids With Autism

Jeanne Sager | Dec 13, 2016 Big Kid
Image: iStock.com/FatCamera


It's that time of year again, when many of us are trying to come up with the perfect gift to buy for the child with autism on our holiday shopping list. So what are other moms' can't-fail tips for buying something that will be a total hit? We found some moms of kids on the spectrum and asked them for a little help to make all of our shopping a little easier this year. Check out some of the great ideas we've come across!

Carol Greenburg knows the holiday shopping struggle all too well. Greenburg is editor of The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism and mom of a 10-year-old with autism. She's also East Coast regional director of the Autism Women's Network, and she is often asked what the perfect gift for an autistic child might be.

"I don't know what the perfect gift for any autistic child is," she says with a laugh. "What's the perfect gift for any neuro-typical child?"

Like shopping for any other kid, moms want to get autistic children something they will enjoy, Greenburg says, not some one-size-fits-all present. The challenge is in balancing the need to provide them with gifts that help them build their skills with gifts that they will really like.

"Moms need to think about what they want to work on, but also what will be the most fun, the most enticing," she says.

When in doubt, the special-needs advocate suggests, play to their interests. "Autistic kids, and autistic people in general, tend to have special interests -- what some people call obsessions. The way to an autistic child's heart, the way to connect with an autistic child is to follow their interests! Don't be afraid to be giving into an obsession!"

Remember to consider the child first, Greenburg adds, not what age recommendation is on the toy box, but what the child is actually interested in and developmentally able to do at this moment in time.

Still looking for some great ideas? Greenburg and several other moms of kids on the spectrum gave a few ideas of what has worked with their kids!

  • Guyot Designs Squishy Bowl and Cup Set


    Shannon Rosa, who blogs about her family at Squidalicious, tries to ensure that gifts for son Leo, who is 12 and autistic, are about him and what he actually enjoys rather than what other people think he or a child his age should enjoy. 

    "He adores fidget or stim items, like his current beloved Guyot silcone Squishy Bowl and Cup Set," Rosa explains. "The cup or bowl let him keep his hands busy -- he can twist and turn and stretch and bend them, and carry them everywhere. Plus, the soft silicone is so touchable, everyone who handles them wants a set for themselves!" ($15, Amazon)

  • Snap Circuits


    Jean Winegardner, better known in the blogosphere as the mom behind Stimeyland, has a 9-year-old son who was diagnosed with Asperger's just this year. When CafeMom asked her for Jack's favorite toy, she said Snap Circuits are a hands-down win. 

    "They are cool, because they are not too complicated to put together and come with detailed directions," Winegardner explains. "But they teach kids to follow diagrams and they have a big payoff if one puts it together right, because lights flash or propellers take off. Jack has even tried to make up some circuits of his own!" ($18, Amazon)

  • Pin Art Tactile Fidget


    Leigh Merryday, blogger at Flappiness Is... and mom to 3-year-old autistic son Callum, recommends pin art like this for kids to express their creativity and experience the tactile feedback they crave. Callum is fascinated by this one! ($18, Amazon)

    More from CafeMom: 

  • Lego Classic Medium Creative Brick Box


    Lego is highly popular with a lot of kids on the spectrum -- to the point where there are Lego clubs specifically for autistic kids. Mom Erin Mast prefers Lego sets with "no preconceived plan for building" for her boys on the spectrum because "it encourages creativity and problem solving."

    This set includes 484 pieces of various sizes and colors and certainly fits the bill. As the item description states: "The only limit is one's imagination!" Let the thinking outside the box begin! (prices vary by seller, Amazon)