Teens and tweens can be so hard to buy for! Even a typical child at this age can be a challenge, let alone one with different abilities.
This post for holiday gift ideas for teens and tweens with autism has long been in the making. Some of you may remember the list I put together last year. Or I should say, the list of gift suggestions that my BSC put together, for kids with autism, intellectual disabilities and so on. For obvious reasons, that post is very popular. But I kept hearing one complaint over and over from moms, “I need gift ideas for my teen or tween, they are SO hard to buy for.” Last holiday season I just ran out of time, but this year I asked several parents who have kids on the spectrum and others….”What do you give your teen/tween on the spectrum for Christmas?” I got a lot of good answers so hopefully some of them help you purchase a gift for a teen or tween with autism. I tried to find some fun and unusual things…so keep in mind that many of these items will appeal to all kids.
I asked moms (who have kids with autism and other disabilities), teachers and a few others, and here is our list.
Gift Ideas for Teens and Tweens with Autism
Sensory stuff–How about a lava lamp, bubble lamp and things of that nature. Now you can even get them as speakers with Bluetooth, to hook up with other items.
Jack Skellington clock and iPod holder from EKids
I like this clock for several reasons and for many reasons it is a great gift idea for teens with autism or other disabilities. First, it is a clock (duh!) and you can set multiple alarms on it. I like this for the kid who struggles with executive functioning skills such as time management in the morning. So you can set one clock for wake up time, and another for “you should be out of the shower and dressed” time. Then, it’s also an iPod dock. So, for the kid who likes to take his device to bed with him at night, no more struggles of where to keep it while they are sleeping. I know people in their 30s and 40s who still love Nightmare Before Christmas, so the Jack Skellington isn’t too babyish. They have others such as Phineas & Ferb too.
Age appropriate puzzles: Puzzles are so popular for all ages. And hey, some kids may still do the chunky wooden puzzles, but there are things out there for all ages and abilities.
Another mom said that her child loves to watch Sand Art:
We got one of these to try and we’re all loving it! Do you have a kid who just loves deep pressure and sensory of that sort? Then definitely check out the Squeeze Reliever. It’s pretty self-explanatory. You put your hand into it and the Squeeze Reliever massages and vibrates to give your kid the sensory input that they love. If you have a teen or tween with autism, that loves sensory input on their hands, definitely check this out.
Personalized Krazy Straws
Personalized stuff is so hot right now…so how about a personalized Krazy Straw. They’re fun, they’re inexpensive…and hey, if you have feeding issues, it just might make getting liquids in an easier task. All kids will love this, but I love the personalized aspect of it for kids with autism and just the fun factor.
Pinch Me Dough
This made it into my full gift guide but it deserves a nod here too. Pinch Me Dough is a therapeutic putty or dough and it has lots of uses. From strengthening hands for fine motor tasks to reducing anxiety, having a fidget something or sensory input…makes a great stocking stuffer. If you have a teen or tween with autism, definitely check this out. The aromatherapy aspect of the therapy dough makes it multi-sensory, which you know I love!
iTunes Gift Card
One of my friends from college said last year, “Give me gift ideas that are not itunes gift cards!” So to that, yes, I hear you. Many times an iTunes gift card is an easy way out. Still, I heard from autism moms that they do always use them and that their kids love getting new apps and music….so it’s still a good gift idea for a teen or tween with autism..or any teen or tween, really.
If a child is in special education, chances are they learn differently. If learning to drive is an option, then let’s make it happen. Call around and find a driving school so that they can get some extra instruction and practice. Teens with autism need extra practice and should be given the opportunity if driving is a reality.
Sound canceling headphones
If a child has auditory processing disorder or other sound issues related to autism (or even if they don’t!) they may struggle with discerning different sounds they hear in their natural environment. Or, as one mom suggested…her son just loves his music and loves the privacy and solitude of headphones. So invest in a good pair.
2015 World Almanac-If you have a little details-oriented kiddo who just loves to read facts, figures and statistics…consider the 2015 World Almanac. Praised as a ”treasure trove of political, economic, scientific and educational statistics and information” by The Wall Street Journal, The World Almanac® contains thousands of facts that are unavailable publicly elsewhere. The World Almanac® and Book of Facts will answer all of your trivia needs—from history and sports to geography, pop culture, and much more.
Perplexus is a game that came very highly recommended by several parents. One look and you’ll probably be able to tell if your child will like it or not. As you can see the box says Age 6 and up, but I never pay much attention to those. If they like it and can use it, get it.
Moonscape-This is similar to Perplexus, but I like it more because it’s the moon. The other is just a puzzle, with Moonscape I can relate it to something real world and talk about something real world…the moon!
I just got to try these at a small trade show last week. Spaghetti Headz are what you see below. They are made of clay and they go into a girl’s hair quite easily. I like them because I think many times our kids struggle to fit in socially and many times that includes the latest trends. I know that many girls with autism just could not sit still long enough for one of those hair wraps on the boardwalk, but they are very popular. This is an easier way to do it and it still looks very cool. I think teen girls with autism will find this an easier way to participate in some of the trends that their non-sensory-aversive peers are doing.
A subscription to Netflix is a great idea for a teen/tween. They have so much programming to offer for that age group.
Gift Cards that allow them to practice independence: These are a great idea. Maybe just a Visa card, or maybe to a specific place. But a gift card begins to teach budgeting, spending and independence in the community.
I’m adding the Lee Jeans link for women’s jeans, if there are any teen girls who are inching toward women’s sizes. The Easy Fit jeans are phenomenal. They are as comfortable as leggings or sweatpants, but they look like jeans. I think they are a great option for a teen girl with autism who has sensory issues and dislikes regular jeans (and I would have to include myself in this category).
I haven’t tried this yet but it looks cool and it’s affordable. It’s also a toy but not babyish. I saw a guy doing this at the Franklin Institute last week, so I know it works, I just haven’t tried it yet. It’s unusual which I think will appeal to kids plus it will get them outdoors. I think kids that lean more towards science/academic/Aspie will be fascinated by this…for 5 minutes until they figure it out and are spilling the secret to everyone else.
The WOW Cup
Have you seen these yet? We just got 3 from Telebrands and love them! Let’s face it, sometimes our kids, even at tween years and beyond…don’t have the motor skills to drink successfully from a “big boy cup.” Or at least not making a mess. Happens in my house! So I was absolutely thrilled to find these because they are spill proof and don’t look babyish. Great and practical stocking stuffer for a tween/teen with autism or other motor skill difficulties.
Other random gift ideas for Teens and Tweens with autism:
Audio books for struggling readers
Inexpensive tablets for games
Photo books from Shutterfly
And to wrap it up….remember…many times our kids are more alike than different. They may communicate differently and learn differently, but inside a kid is a kid. So whatever is hot and trendy with all teens and tweens–whether it be a book, movie, video game, music…chances are a teen with autism may enjoy it too. Just ask. Like many other things, you can adapt. So if a girl wants to read the Twilight series but struggles with reading, get the book on CD or audio. Get a gift card for clothing and let them shop after the holiday rush. It is the thought that counts and with some thought, I’m sure you all will come up with some great gift ideas.
If you have any ideas to add, please leave a comment.
This post was originally published in 2014 and was updated in 2016. Please let me know if you find broken links or cannot find an item.