Gift Giving and Asperger’s

Every Christmas, my daughter sets up a spreadsheet. She knows what she wants and goes to the trouble of categorizing gift ideas. My family has always been about getting lists together for each other, so this isn’t unusual for us, at all. In fact, it’s helpful.

If you’ve read “Asperger’s in Pink,” you are already familiar with how my Aspie views gift giving and how she has responded to receiving gifts over the years. It’s one part practical, one part cringe, one part hilarious. And that has not changed over time.

When it comes to my Aspergirl, she knows what she wants and how she wants it. On the one hand, it takes some of the joy out of surprising her with special gifts. Then again, to my Aspie, there is no joy in the word “surprise.” She’d rather know what’s going to happen ahead of time and works to make the odds in her favor. She wants a say in her gifts because in her words, “Why waste your money on something I won’t like?” Which is followed by, “But I gave you a list.” This sentiment was repeated when she first watched “A Christmas Story” with us. She was flabbergasted by the gifting of the pink bunny outfit, and remains so to this day.

“But I gave you a list.”

No matter the celebration, gift giving is part and parcel of our culture.  If you are a parent of a kid on the Autism Spectrum, there are a few considerations added to it. Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to gift giving and Asperger’s in the house.

  1. When your Aspie gives you a list, respect it. One thing most Aspies detest is surprise. Of course, you do not need to buy every single item on that list. As we tell her, it’s a wish list, not a checklist. Still, it can be perplexing to be asked for a list, then not get anything on it.
  2. ...but do buy a surprise or two. One part of growing up is learning to handle surprises. We have always included at least one present for our Aspie that didn’t make her list. We’ve used it as a way to help her be a gracious receiver. To be clear, these are gifts we think she will like; they aren’t gifts for the sake of “teaching an uncomfortable lesson.”
  3. Special Interests are a good place to start if you need ideas. Special Interests are almost always a safe bet when it comes to gift ideas. For example, does he like Marvel? Head in that direction. Things such as building sets or action figures are great. She has a love of Disney? Disney is more than willing to help you part with your money while leaving a smile on her face! If you are able, the gift of a trip somewhere that involves a Special Interest is an incredible thing! If you can pull it off, it will be a wonderful memory in the making!
  4. Think of items that are sensory. Most Aspies have some form of Sensory Processing Disorder. There are toys and other items that are marvelous when it comes to SPD! Fidget spinners are an easy pick, but classics such as bright green goo or soft stuffed animals can be enjoyable for them. NOTE: Understand the sensory experiences they avoid before buying. They may love squishy things, but the scent of play dough may make it a deal breaker.
  5. Teach gratitude. It doesn’t matter what the gift is; it is good to teach our kids to be thankful for the thought and time that goes into each gift. I shared this with my friends over at We Know Stuff, but wanted to share it with you, too:

“ ‘But what about the gifts that seem to have no thought attached?’ I can hear a few of you saying, and I get it. Years ago, there was one individual bent on giving our daughter things she did not like. We were never sure if it was on purpose or not (this person believed quite fiercely the ‘issue’ with our daughter was her parents, not Asperger’s.) We used those gifts as teaching moments and affirmed how she felt. Let’s be honest; we all receive gifts that make us scratch our heads, don’t we? It’s like that pink bunny outfit mentioned earlier; sometimes, you’ve got to listen to dad, shake your head, and move on.”

Gift giving (and receiving!) is a social skill many of us can benefit from, whether on the Autism Spectrum or not. Do you have any tips you’d like to share? If you are an Aspie and want to help others know your thoughts on gift giving, please comment below.

Wishing you all the best,

 ~ Julie

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