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Gift Ideas For Someone With Special Needs

‘Tis the season to be jolly ……………… except when you have no idea what to buy.  BJ loves his presents.  He gets excited when he rips off the wrapping paper and as a Mum I want to give him something he will enjoy and can use.  Over the years we have received or bought presents that have been frustrating and for one reason or another they haven’t worked for BJ.  Sometimes it takes a leap of faith to find the gift that is a winner and other times the simplest of gifts proves a hit.
I thought I’d put together a list of presents that we have found worked over the years.  This is not to say it will work for the person you are buying for, but it may give you some ideas.


As BJ has grown older we have found these have been good for him.  He really likes unwrapping something but these make a good present especially if you have to send a gift in the mail.
At many attractions companions are admitted free so buying the person with a disability an annual pass can make a good present. Some suggestions are Zoo passes, museum passes, movie tickets or tickets to a show.  For those living in Sydney a Merlin Pass gives unlimited entry to Wild Life World, Sea Life Aquarium and Sydney Tower Eye which are all accessible.
BJ loved his Wild Ride on the trike below and the bonus was that he got to do it with Dad and AJ.


We have always strived to give BJ opportunities at having success with what he does.  Although this may be considered an easy hoop it gave BJ a lot of joy.  He needed to use two hands in the early days and was thrilled to get the ball through the hoop.  Whoever was playing with him could throw theirs and stand further back to increase the difficulty for them.


Many of the cars that do something have small buttons which BJ can’t manage.  BJ could manage to shake a car so this worked well for him.  They don’t require good fine motor.  These cars have been available in all sorts of characters over the years including Cars and Toy Story.


BJ has a good kick but obviously once he kicks a ball it is a struggle to keep chasing it.  The attached soccer ball is secured with a string which is attached to a water filled plastic weight.  This proved a good way of having the ball come back to him.  Unfortunately we don’t still have it so no photo available.



I’ve talked about this before.  Not only was water play always fun but the trough brought kids to BJ.  It kept them in one place so he had a better chance of playing with others.  We’ve also put sand and coloured rice in it for a bit of variety.


This is activated by touch or sound.  A fun activity with the bonus of providing an opportunity to work on hand function.  This was bought from Kmart.


It took BJ a long time to manage a water gun and it took me even longer to find one he could manage.  I bought this one for the bath but BJ’s aim became so good it had to be taken out of the bathroom. No one was safe.  Instead of a trigger action it is a pump action which he can manage.  I found this on the weekend at Myer for $15


These can be a fantastic gift especially in this era of kids being so visually stimulated.  It is good for them to just use listening skills.  AJ is a big fan of audio books. Her favourite is Junie B Jones (all about a tell it like it is, mischievous girl) Amazon has a good range of audio books at reasonable prices.  A CD player (though old fashioned these days) can be a great gift for younger children.  AJ loves hers.


Sometimes you can buy a regular game and make some adaptations.  Educational toy shops have giant dice which we have found BJ can throw well.  It gives him a job during the game and he gladly rolls the dice for anyone willing to give him that job.


BJ can’t hold a hand of cards for something like the game Old Maid or Fish but he will take the card and turn it over if I hold it for him.  He also likes playing things like Snap.


Buzz Lightyear with remote control is a favourite with BJ.  Although not accurate BJ can make Buzz move and he thinks he is pretty cool.  For a child with good hand control a remote control car or boat would be great.


We are big Toy Story fans in our family and when BJ was younger we found this pull string Woody figure that is easy to operate.  He had great satisfaction in pulling the string and making Woody talk.  I was shopping the other day and found they are bringing them out again this year.  I found them in Big W in Australia but I am sure being the Toy Story franchise they will be readily available in other stores.


We found this giant game helps BJ play this well loved game.  Being a big table set it also encourages interaction with adults and other kids.


This is a game at one of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s houses and on investigation it isn’t cheap BUT it is so fun to play and makes access easy for BJ encouraging interaction.


I love the sensation of swinging but finding something for BJ was difficult.  He couldn’t sit on a regular swing and this also has room for two people to sit beside him, making it social.  We bought this one recently from Kmart in Australia for $79


We have used and used this bowling set.  Most recently it went to an 18th birthday party and I spied some adults having a go too.  It really brings people together.  This was bought at National Geographic Shop years ago for $50 but it has lasted very well.


This is actually AJ’s game but for children with good hand function this would make a great gift.  It has so many different settings.  You can use the attached pointer to touch a country or city and learn facts about that area. I rather like the fast paced game where the audio tells you a country you need to find and there is a time limit. All the while it keeps calling out country after country.  Lots of fun for AJ and I to play together but as I said something that would work for a child that has better hand function than BJ.  Keep an eye on sales because these come down to around $90 in Australia but are no doubt much cheaper in the USA.


This is definitely a larger ticket item and not right for all children with a disability but it has been great for our family.  Safely zippered up (and with the right combination of children ie not too rough) this has been a good social activity for BJ.


We love this game because it can be played by any age group bringing people together and it is reasonably priced.  We also adapted it when BJ was younger by using a halved plumber’s plastic pipe as a ramp for the bowling from his wheelchair.


Those of you that have been following along for a while on facebook will know that I am obsessed by trying to improve BJ’s hand function.  He was given this puzzle years after it was “age appropriate” for him but it was a really good hand function exercise and he really saw it as a challenge to open all the different locks.
It is a Melissa and Doug puzzle.  This particular range of toys are excellent for any child but they have many toys that are great for children with special needs and they are very sturdy.


BJ has always loved his books.  Here are a couple of our old favourites for younger children.  We love anything by Alison Lester but Are We There Yet? is obviously a good travel tale.

The last suggestion I will mention is a canvas print of a favourite photo. BJ loves photos of him doing an activity with family and he has several canvas prints in his room.

I love it when someone thinks of a gift for BJ without me being involved but I do understand it is hard for family and friends to know what to buy. If in doubt, ask the parent because it is better to do that than give a gift that proves frustrating.

I hope this list proves helpful to someone and please feel free to add to this list with gifts you have found to be good.

These are merely gifts we have found work for BJ.  You need to consider the child you are purchasing for and whether they are suitable for their age and ability.

Happy shopping.


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