The holidays are almost upon us. And with it comes great challenges for autistic people. Routines are disrupted, and there are lots of unexpected and overwhelming lights and sounds and smells—as well as the pressure to be social.
Usually, when people talk about autism, they focus on autistic children. It's easy to forget that these children grow into autistic adults. Adults with autism spectrum disorder also seek acceptance and validation in a world that seems overwhelming.
Christmas is all about gifts, but buying presents for an autistic adult can be tricky. This article explores gift ideas for adults with autism that are useful—and fun!
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by challenges with social interaction, communication, and restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior. Most autistic people suffer from a condition called sensory processing disorder. This means that children and adults with autism are hypersensitive to visual stimuli, sounds, and textures.
Having a sensory processing disorder is not something to be ashamed of. With the proper support, autistic people can turn these differences into strengths through therapy and using different fidget toys.
Discover Best Fidget Toys for Autism.
Tips for an Autism-Friendly Christmas
Christmas, while a wonderful period filled with merriness and cheer, can be overwhelming for an autistic person. You might want to celebrate in something other than traditional ways and instead create your own fun habits.
Here are some tips for an autism-friendly holiday season:
- Make a schedule: Always have a plan for Christmas, especially if you call over family members and friends. Sometimes, a visual schedule can help remind the autistic adult what to expect on that day.
- Keep it simple: If you invite an autistic person, ensure they have a quiet room they can go to when they are overwhelmed to relax. Don't put too much pressure on them to open their presents. Try to keep the decorations at a minimum and, if it's the case, cook dishes that the autistic adult likes and tolerates.
- Dealing with extended family: You might have some friends or family members that come to the party who are not familiar with autism. They might not understand why autistic adults don’t like hugs or opening presents. Take some time to explain to them what it means to live with autism.
- Don’t have expectations: Don’t stress if something doesn’t go as planned. Try to be patient and understand what the autistic person needs and likes. You don’t need to have a traditional Christmas; you can create new habits that fit your lifestyle that are more meaningful.
Best Christmas Gift Ideas for Autistic Adults
If you don't know what to give an autistic adult, you can ask them. More often than not, people are more alike than different. While adults with autism learn and communicate differently, we all have likes, dislikes, and wishes. For example, you can continuously adapt if someone struggles with reading but loves books. You can buy an audiobook with the title the autistic person enjoys.
An intelligent speaker has many uses, especially for an autistic adult. Its compact form fits perfectly into small spaces. This model has an improved speaker quality for a louder and richer sound. It also has voice control for music and creates a smart home: you can turn on lights, adjust thermostats, and lock doors. It also helps you connect with others hands-free and has multiple layers of privacy controls.
A weighted blanket has one purpose: to help the person relax or calm down during stressful situations. It also helps with sensory overload. The blankets are filled with materials that apply deep pressure stimulation on the body—some describe the feeling as a hug. It usually contains glass beads, polypropylene pellets, or cotton that provide comfort and security. To make it heavier than other blankets, it's equipped with evenly distributed weights. Autistic adults might love receiving a weighted blanket!
This sensory toy is perfect for people with autism and sensory issues. You can use this toy to self-soothe by stretching, pulling, twirling, and squeezing the monkey noodles. They'll bounce back to their original shape!
It's a perfect gift to relieve anxiety, stress, and tension. The stretchy toys are also durable and washable. They come in different colors, and the strings are made with quality silicone material, free of latex, BPA, and phthalates.
One nice idea is getting a new set of noise-canceling headphones or earphones. It helps autistic people de-stress and escape from the busy world by wearing comfortable headphones.
There are many good headphones on the market, but the main goal is to block enough sound to allow adults with autism to focus on the task. The headphones should be comfortable enough to be worn daily or to bed, depending on the person’s sensitivity to noise.
Lava lamps, bubble lamps, or similar items can hold an autistic person's attention for hours. The calming lights and the soothing sounds soothe an overstimulated autistic adult. Lava lamps are often used in occupational therapy.
Lava lamps are fun because of the mesmerizing bubbles that go up and down in a contained environment. While they might appear random in nature, lava lamps often repeat specific patterns with slight changes. It might be why many autistic people love them.
Essential oils are the oldest form of natural medicine, a practice as ancient as Egyptians. Many autistic adults find essential oils soothing and calming. They might help children with autism during overwhelming situations and panic attacks.
If the person you are gifting loves the smell of essential oils, then you should invest in an oil diffuser. Be sure the person receiving the oil diffuser is not allergic, and be wary of certain scents they might dislike.
Adults go on about their lives, but they might find themselves in stressful situations. Even a simple bus ride can be a source of anxiety. Fidget toys exist to provide hours of entertainment and stress relief for autistic people.
People with autism might love to pop bubbles but hate the noise. This keychain is perfect for them because they can carry it anywhere and it is unobtrusive. Autistic adults can use them without people giving them funny looks. You can also try this bean keychain if you want a different sensation.
Also, if the autistic adult you are giving the gift to wants to pop more bubbles, you can try gifting them a whole sheet of bubble wrap or a large pop-it sensory toy. They are made of silicone and are very portable. They can be folded, rolled, or squished inside a bag. They come in different colors and sizes that fit everyone’s style.
Puzzles are a toy popular for kids (and adults) of all ages. Since many adults with autism learn visually and think in pictures rather than words, this might be a perfect gift.
There are many puzzles available for all ages, abilities, and budgets—plus, the whole family can participate in the activity. Puzzles are fun and challenging and are excellent learning tools. Furthermore, puzzles teach problem-solving skills, can be used to teach vocabulary, and enhance fine motor skills. They also encourage creativity and focus and improve critical thinking and memory skills.
Many autistic people are aggressive chewers, meaning they chew on everything to calm down and reduce anxiety. Chewing is calming for adults and children with ASD, especially when overstimulated.
Sensory chew toys are objects made with safe materials, such as non-toxic silicone or fabric. They are meant to provide sensory stimulation—that's why they come in various textures, depending on the chewer.
Many chew toys are available on the market, but the most popular ones are chewy necklaces. If you know an adult with autism who likes to chew on things, you might want to consider a sensory necklace or other chewy toys.
The Shashibo shape-shifting box is a unique puzzle toy that unlocks your creativity. You solve this puzzle by shifting the pieces held together by rare earth magnets. When turned, hidden colors and fantastic shapes are revealed. In addition, you can combine multiple cubes that create vibrant sculptures.
It features 36 earth magnets that transform into 70 shapes. It fits comfortably into your hand, and it's made with durable injection molded plastic. The Shashibo toy can be a stimulating Christmas gift for any autistic adult.
Tips for Selecting a Gift
Here are some tips that might help you select the perfect gift for an autistic adult:
- Think about the autistic person’s developmental ability. When selecting a gift, it's best if you don't think about age. Respect the person's interests because they often have strong interests in specific topics. Books or toys that cater to those particular interests are good.
- You don’t need to break the bank. The gifts you choose don't have to be expensive—and you don't need to buy many. Choose a few good simple presents or one big significant present. Be mindful of sensory preferences.
- You don’t really need to buy anything new. You can find many communities that give away toys and other items. Use this knowledge to your advantage and buy gifts still in excellent condition.