Gift giving for children with autism, a neural development disorder, can often be a daunting prospect, calling for a degree of sensitivity not normally associated with gift-giving to children.
Children with autism can have a host of development disorders. Language impairment to some degree is often a symptom of autism and frequently autistic children do not speak at all. Autism also prevents children from having normal social interactions. They don't have the same interests as their peers, even assuming they can communicate with them at all. And, because they are usually unable to correct interpret facial expression or cues, they are unable to respond appropriately in many social interactions.
If you are unfamiliar with autistic children and/or don't have the time to research a gift, the Golden Rule is to ask the parents.
Committed parents of autistic children are often involved in their children's lives to a degree that many of us might find unimaginable or even intolerable. They are aware of every expression, every behavior pattern, every response or lack of response. They spend hours coaxing their children in developing language skills, gross and fine motor skills, appropriate social interactions and in the basic routines of living. These wonderful men and women can tell you exactly what gift might be best for their child at this point in their development.
A word of advice. Don't be put off if the parent suggests what appears to be a too-young gift for their autistic child. Remember that the development of autistic children is atypical and gifts that may be age appropriate for a three-year-old might be exactly right for their ten-year-old.
Similarly, don't be put off if the parents suggest clothes instead of a toy. Clothes can always be used and may be welcomed in families whose resources are stretched by the demands of providing for autistic children.
In the last decade or so there has been an explosion of interest in autism and there are more resources available than ever before to learn about the syndrome and the special needs of these children. Nevertheless, identifying the right toy for an autistic child can be challenging. As you go about it, remember how much the families appreciate your interest. They will thank you for the effort, even if their child cannot.