Gift for Special Needs Teenager and Adults
Teens and adults with autism and disabilities can be so hard to buy for! This post was crowd sourced from my friends and from members of our Facebook Group and what I could pull from Twitter.
If you are buying a gift for autistic adults or a gift for an autistic teenager, here are many tried and true ideas. Keep in mind that many of these items will appeal to all kids, not just teens or adults on the spectrum. Please note: The language is always evolving and changing. Many people no longer use the term ‘special needs.’
First, let me get on my soapbox. “There’s nothing age-inappropriate about liking things.” If the teen or adult likes characters or toys that are geared toward younger kids, so what? If they like it, they like it. You can expose and introduce, but you cannot force a person of any age to like things they don’t like. If people have a problem with middle-aged me and my teen son liking Sesame Street, that’s their problem. Not mine.
Gift Ideas for Special Needs Teenager
New category this year-splurge gift idea. Last year, Yogibo was our splurge gift for Kevin. I am trying to buy larger, more valuable and nicer gifts, instead of a ton of inexpensive junk. IE-No more Target Dollar Spot for us. And honestly, Kevin doesn’t ask for much so I don’t mind treating him at the holidays or his birthday.
This year, we are just in love with Yogibo. Honestly, someone uses a Yogibo product in our house, every day. We all just love the sensory input and comfort. They are amazing. Both boys have reading nooks in their bedrooms that includes Yogibo. Our local Yogibo store also has Sensory Sundays for special needs families to just come and hang out and enjoy the Yogibo before buying. So check your store, you might be able to try before you buy.
The other gift idea that I have that is a bit more spendy would be a light table. They don’t have to be babyish or toddlerish. It’s all about how you use it. You can now get transparent Lego-type bricks, Magformers and other accessories that are more mature.
On to the rest of the list.
Gift Ideas for Adults with Autism
1. ASK THEM. Many times, people are more alike than different. We may communicate differently and learn differently, but inside we all have likes, dislikes, and wishes. So whatever is hot and trendy with all teens, whether it be a book, movie, video game, music; chances are a teen with autism may enjoy it too. Just ask them. 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 at their favorite store or take them shopping.
2. Amazon Echo Dot-I am adding this new this year. I just heard from so many parents how this is a perfect gift for teens. And every holiday season, they offer one model for under $30! There are so many uses for this, especially in a special needs household. We use ours all the time.
- Meet the all-new Echo Dot with clock - Our most popular smart speaker with Alexa. The sleek, compact design delivers crisp vocals and balanced bass for full sound.
- Perfect for your nightstand - See the time, alarms, and timers on the LED display. Tap the top to snooze an alarm.
- Ready to help - Ask Alexa to tell a joke, play music, answer questions, play the news, check the weather, set alarms, and more.
- Control your smart home - Use your voice to turn on lights, adjust thermostats, and lock doors with compatible devices.
- Connect with others - Call almost anyone hands-free. Instantly drop in on other rooms or announce to the whole house that dinner's ready.
3. Fun Sensory stuff: How about a lava lamp, bubble lamp and those types of items. Now you can even get them as speakers with Bluetooth, to hook up to other items.
4. Clock that is a Phone Charger-I like this clock! We have one. 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. You can set one clock for a wake-up time, and another for “you should be out of the shower and dressed” time. Then, it’s also a charging dock. 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.
- 【Wireless Charging】 - Support most universal Wireless Charging cellphone models. It provide convenience for you to place and charge your phone at the same time.
- 【Dual plus Alarm Setting】- Updated in 2020 from dual alarms to three alarms. You can either set two or three alarms to better WAKE you up. One for you and the other for your families. Forever Say no to delay. Also, it allows you to set weekday mode, which will ring only on Monday to Friday
- 【Stylish Wooden Design for Decor】- This must be the most delicate alarm clock you've ever seen. It's not only a clock, but also a great decoration for your bedroom. Stylish appearance and multiple functions make it suitable as a gifts for kids
- 【3 Brightness Level Adjustable】- Allows you to adjust from low to high brightness, or even turn off the LED light and keep it sound sensitive. It's user friendly at night, which won't be too harsh for your eyes.
- 【Power Cord Operated】- This clock is operated by USB to barrel power cord. ***Batteries are NOT RECOMMENDED*** It drains batteries REALLY fast! Batteries are only for testing purpose or temperarily use.
5. Age Appropriate Puzzles: Puzzles are so popular for all ages. And hey, some kids may still do the chunky wooden puzzles and that’s fine too. But there are things out there for all ages and abilities.
6. Another mom said that her child loves to watch Sand Art.
7. Squeeze Reliever–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? You put your hand into it and the compression massager massages to give your autistic teen the sensory input that they love. If you have an adult relative with autism who just loves sensory input on their hands, this is a great gift idea.
- Compact and portable compression massager ideal for hardworking hands that get tight, sore, and cramped.
- Top and bottom airbags rhythmically press along the hands, wrists, and fingers to stretch out cramps and soothe pain.
- Optional heat setting further reduces pain and swelling. Small massage nodes stimulate reflexology pressure points on the palm. We may not recommend using this hand massager who has an arthritis or sensitive hands. Air pressure may be too strong for some people.
- Cordless Lithium Ion battery never needs to be replaced and is rechargeable using a USB cord or an AC adapter (both included).
- Black and pearl outer casing is sophisticated and discreet, so it's perfect for the desktop. Offers three strength levels and three pre-programmed massages.
9. Personalized Krazy Straws-Personalized stuff is so hot right now. So how about a personalized Krazy Straw? They’re fun and 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.
10. Pinch Me Dough-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. This is a great gift idea for teens with autism. The aromatherapy aspect of the therapy dough makes it multi-sensory, which you know I love!
- TRANQUIL SPA: All the tranquility of a day at the spa without the hefty price tag. Enjoy the lucid aroma of a restful day of pampering. SPA: Because you deserve it.
- THERAPY DOUGH: Enhance your mood and relieve your stress with Pinch Me Therapy Dough, a squishable putty that channels relief through the senses with its aromatic scent, soft texture, and calm color.
- HOLISTIC HELP: Refocus, rebalance, and restore with aroma treatment dough. As you knead, it will take the edge off and will act as a hand strengthener. Simply squeeze the dough and enjoy.
- PLIABLE PEACE: Massage this pliant putty between your fingers and feel the stress fade away. With its malleable texture and naturally soothing scent, this dough is superior to any fidget toy or slime.
- RELAXING REMEDY: This calming, sensory dough works as thinking putty and a stress reliever for adults. Use it for hand exercise, natural relaxation, and mood enhancing properties.
11. iTunes Gift Card-One of my mom-friends posted, “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 with autism. Or any person, really. Just make sure that they have Apple products and not Android.
12. Driving Lessons-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.
13. 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.
14. Almanacs!-If you have a little details-oriented kiddo who just loves to read facts, figures, and statistics, consider an almanac type book.
- English (Publication Language)
- 1008 Pages - 11/26/2019 (Publication Date) - World Almanac (Publisher)
- Old Farmer’s Almanac (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 304 Pages - 09/01/2020 (Publication Date) - Old Farmer's Almanac (Publisher)
- Janssen, Sarah (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 1008 Pages - 12/01/2020 (Publication Date) - World Almanac (Publisher)
- Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
- Jonny Weston, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Sam Lerner (Actors)
- Dean Israelite (Director)
- English (Playback Language)
- English (Subtitle)
15. Perplexus –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.
- Twist, flip, and spin the sphere 360 degrees to solve
- Move the silver ball along the path
- Easy to play, hard to master
- Challenging, crazy, and fun maze puzzle game
16. Perplexus (again!)-What I like about Perplexus is that there are several variations of it, beginner and up.
- MOTORIZED, MOVING 3D MAZE: Perplexus Revolution Runner is a motorized, perpetually moving 3D maze! Twist, spin and turn to navigate the ball through the track and ever-changing obstacles to keep up with the maze’s movement without falling into the trench!
- MULTI-PATH MAZE WITH OBSTACLES: Keep up with the Revolution Runner’s constant motion by navigating the ball through the multi-path maze! As the track inside moves, the obstacles are ever-changing for a constant challenge of agility and speed!
- 4 SPEEDS TO MASTER: Perplexus Revolution Runner comes equipped with 4 different speeds! Master the first speed, then step up your difficulty level to faster speeds for even more thrilling, high-tension challenges!
- Perplexus Revolution Runner is a thrilling perpetual motion 3D maze and makes a great gift for kids aged 9 and up. Requires 3 AA batteries (included). Twist it. Turn it. Beat it!
- Includes: Perplexus Revolution Runner, 3 AA batteries, Instruction Sheet
17. Spaghetti Headz-I got to try these at a small trade show a few years ago. 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.
- [ Material ]: Hair Styling Twister Hair Bands are made of Spring and Artificial Zircon,Ultra Elastic and durable enough for long time using; Zircon has strong glass luster and yam diamond gloss, high dispersion, make your hair more shinning and charming.
- [ Lovely and Fashion Design ]: Soft bands and lightweight ornaments,it is ideal for your delicate hairs.Length with beads: approx 10.2"/ 25.9 cm.Special look to match your dressing up party costumes,a fun & stylish way to change your hairstyle.
- [ Ultra Elastic and Durable ]: It can be stretched easily and resume quickly, can hold your hair tightly and not easy to loose up, suitable for thick,fine curly or straight hair.
- [ Beautiful Decoration with Your Hair ]: Our cute and lovely rubber bands are very popuplar among women and even baby girls, little girls, Teens, Kids,etc.This 10.2 inch long women girls hair twister braiders can be used to hold your bangs, dreads, or tie off a braid, it would the best choice as a gift for them.
- [ Package Include ]: Package contains 18pcs Braided rubber hair band (3 pcs of each color), you can change the color you like on everyday. Easy-to-use and carry up to your makeup bag or handbag. You can refer to the use way in the description.
- Twist It! Charm It! Rock It! Wear It! SpaghettiHeadz are the original hair twist made from eco-friendly polymer clay.
- Package Contents: Includes One 9 Inch Yellow Pink Berry Blast, One 9 Inch Pastel Pink Yellow Blue Punch, One 9 Inch Too Pink Grape Ape Colored Twist With The Following Charms: Balloon Bunch, Birthday Cake, Pink Surprise Gift Present
- Stay in place! Even the most active girls can feel confident and comfortable waving their hair back and forth due to our proprietary hair twist designs!
- Cut to size for short to long hair, bracelets, pony tails, hair wraps, educational play, creative play and more!
- Great for special occasions! From birthdays, to christmas, to hannukkah, to graduation Spaghetti Headz are the life of the party!
- Package include 12pcs hair braid Twister, shown in picture
- Color is random
- Perfect braider tool for your princess
- Easy to put on and off, no hurt to hair
- Shining Lights: The optical fiber LED lights would be shining after turning on the switch. Multicolor LED braids hair tensions dispersed in the back of the hair, for adding an extra flair to the night
- Easy to Use: Simply clipt onto your hair, with ON/OFF switch easy to turn off and on.(Battery inclueded)
- Eye-Catching Fiber-Optical Plait: Become the center of attention at the party. Look dazzlingn the night. Make you look distinctive and easily catch attention in the crowd
- Multiple Choice: Many different colors for you to choose from. The combination of the colorful lights can create different light effect
- Great for Any Nighttime Event: Rave party, prom, holidays, parties, nightlife, concerts, raves, festivals, weddings, great events. led hair lights, led hair clips, led hair accessories, flashing led light up toys, light up toy for girls women to brithsday party bar concert.
18. Netflix–A subscription to Netflix is a great idea for a teen/tween. They have so much programming to offer for that age group.
19. Gift Cards- A great idea that allows them to practice independence. 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.
20. Lee Jeans-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).
21. Audiobooks – A great idea for struggling readers.
22. Inexpensive tablets – These are a great idea for reading, games, videos, apps and so much more. And hello? The Fire is now under $50 when it’s on sale.
23. Photo books from Shutterfly. These are great for family members who do not live close. You can also find talking photo albums which are great because then the gift recipient can hear your voice whenever they want. If you don’t have time to set up a talking photo album before Christmas day, purchase it and work on the project together over the holidays. Along these same lines, you may want to look into digital photo frames, particularly if you do not live close to your gift recipient.
- Record a separate voice message on each page using the built-in microphone. Over 2 hours total recording time across the 20 pages, example 6 minutes per page. Re-record as many times as you wish.
- Each of the 20 pages will hold a single 5x7 inch photo in a clear pocket, (125x175mm). Each page has an individual Play/Pause button.
- Built-in speaker with volume control and an earphone socket for personal listening.
- Internal flash memory will save and store your recordings. The built-in USB socket will enable you transfer your voice recordings to your computer. You can also transfer audio files from your computer to each page in the album.
- Bring your memories back to life by adding a new dimension to your photographs. Create your own talking memory books and projects. A wonderful adoption gift. Also ideal for people with Dementia, Alzheimer's or Huntington's disease. Display family photos to reminisce and play daily reminders.
24. Sensory Stuff– Sensory “stuff” is not just for autistics, and not just for kids. Many people find it calming.
25. Projex– Projex is a gaming system. But, unlike say an Xbox or PS5, it is affordable and much easier to use. And, it still feels like a modern gaming system and my boys have fun with it. It’s another way for my boys to interact, which isn’t always so easy given the differences in their skill sets.
This post was originally published in 2014 and is updated annually. Please let me know if you find broken links or cannot find an item. I am aware that the term is “special needs” is being phased out.
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