In addition to the ideas that were offered in this News story, several of my recent blog posts have offered ideas for gifts and demonstrated how the toy might be used as well. I would like to offer at least a few more thoughts on choosing a present here:
1) As mentioned in the News story, ask the child's parents what he or she likes. Children with ASD tend to have very deep interests but are often completely uninterested in all else. Parents will know about current interests.
2) If you want to help a child expand on current interests, be prepared to teach the child how to use new the toys or materials. For younger children, making a video tape of yourself or someone else that the child knows, using the toy (e.g.building with the blocks, drawing with the markers, pretending to cook with the kitchen set, playing the board game) will help that child understand how to use your gift. See www.autismgames.org to see several video models to see how simple it is to make a short video clip of a toy being used. Avoid a lot of talk on the video model and present the toy step-by-step.
3) If you love the parent of a child with autism, one of the nicest gifts you can give that parent is genuine interest and true understanding. Read a book about autism--not in order to offer advice but in order to understand what the parent is telling you about their child. Ask the parent to explain all about what he or she has learned in this very unexpected situation of being a parent of a child with autism. Ask if you can go with the child to a therapy session to see what goes on there. Ask the parent to teach you how to interact better with the child who has autism. Be a support to that parent. Be an encouragement to that parent. There is nothing you can buy that would equal a genuine interest in the tests and concern.
This is one post that would be much better if some of you parent/readers would offer your ideas on good holiday gifts. Click on the comments section and write in as anonymous if you don't want to sign in.