Buying gifts for kids with complex needs can be tricky. Hopefully these tips can help you find the perfect gift for the special little ones in your life.
- An easy go-to gift that people love to get all kids is stuffed animals. They are cute, soft and cuddly and you can pick one up just about anywhere. After a kid turns 3-4 (or even earlier) they end up with quite a collection of stuffed animals. For complex kids that are hard to shop for- this is what EVERYONE gives them. Unless the family has said they want or need more stuffed animals, they probably already have more than they know what to do with.
- Clothes are tricky! For some kids they need access to certain parts of the body (feeding tubes, central lines, catheters, etc). A little girl with a feeding tube may not be able to wear dresses since there is no where to run the line for example. My daughter has skin issues and cannot lay on seems, zippers, buttons, bows, etc without it causing break down and sometimes even open wounds. For our family and friends we make sure everyone knows not only our daughter’s size, but that any clothes for her have to basically be something she could sleep in all day comfortably. If you want to get clothes for a child with special needs, ask the family ahead of time if there is anything you should avoid or look for.
- Some toys are very loud or bright. For a lot of kids, over stimulation can lead to full on sensory melt downs. Some toys require a lot of coordination to play with as well. If the child you are buying for has limited motion, they may not be able to play with the really cool racetrack you found, they may be better off with something like an ooze tube that they can watch and have someone flip for them from time to time. Or maybe they like light up toys, but have a seizure disorder. You may need to be sure the toy is not a strobe light that could trigger a seizure. If you are not sure, I would suggest asking the family or staying away from toys in general.
- Activities are fun gift ideas. It may be passes to an activity location (like a park or bounce house) or it may be an activity for the child to do at home (puzzles, crafts, etc). Obviously you would not want to get a pass to a bounce house for a child with limited mobility that is in a wheelchair, but there are a few other things to consider with a pass to an activity. Some kids may physically be able to get around, but they may have compromised immune systems and the family may avoid crowded places (at least during cold and flu season). Or, maybe the child has a sensory disorder and going into a hyper stimulated environment may not be something the child would enjoy. For these kids, if you want to get an activity related gift, you may be best sticking with activities that can be done at home. My daughter has very limited mobility and can not do the activities on her own, but she like to make the color choices, placement, and pick out details on crafts and then we are her hands for her.
- Movies and music are often great choices for kids. Some movies have great colors that are ideal for children with CVI. Some movies and music can really help to get the kids motivated to communicate and move as well (in what ever ways they are able). It’s kind of like a way to sneak in some therapy. I would just make sure you either include gift receipts with these, or ask ahead. Many families will have a lot of movies already.
- Books are my FAVORITE go-to gift idea. They are much easier to store than countless stuffed animals, and they are great for kids of all ages and abilities. If the child cannot read themselves, it’s a great bonding gift for the parent to read to the child. Lots of books have fantastic art work that is wonderful for kids with CVI as well. I would suggest asking the family if the child is able to read, and if so, what level. Or try to find books with characters or items the child is interested in. My daughter can not get enough elephant books- fact or fiction.
- Sometimes I really try to find gifts that kids WANT, but getting a kid something the need is not a bad thing. With complex kids, there is almost always something they need. It maybe things like blankets, drool cloths, travel bags, bottles, therapy aides (like chewy sticks or bolsters). There is nothing wrong with asking the parents what a child may need.
- If none of these suggestions help, you could always go with a charitable gift. Make a donation to a local child’s charity that helps children like the one you are shopping for. Or maybe the family is saving up for a special brick, star, etc in the child’s honor at one of their favorite places. If that is the case, you could contribute toward something like that.
Regardless which gift you chose, as long as it comes from your heart I’m sure the child in your life will love it. Happy Holidays!