As usual, my wife started buying Christmas presents for our sons sometime around mid-July. About six weeks ago she declared, ‘I’m more or less finished now’, but I have seen no let up in the purchasing. Despite my protestations, I don’t mind one bit (and am probably just as bad). We have struggled in the past to know what to buy our autistic son (I think I posted about this around the time of his birthday) so we want to get it right this year. It is more tricky to know what to buy him but no less fun. We have to be careful not to buy endless stuff that will end up, unplayed with, in a plastic tub or awaiting a car boot sale. So that means no toys that involve imaginative play (Playmobil, for example) and no toys that involve lots of setting up or pieces that could be lost. I thought I’d use this post as an excuse to share what we’ve decided to get him.
- ‘Bounce and Giggle’ and ‘Farmyard Gigglers’. A big breakthrough this year was when our son took a shine to these fluffy toys. They vibrate and bark and flip over and usually cause shoppers to trip over in doorways of toy shops. Our son, who had never played with a teddy or cuddly toy of any sort, immediately loved these, to the point where he picked three up and took them to the counter of the shop himself with the declaration, “I’m buying these!” Since then he has been inseparable from the pig version, who he named Owen (!). Of course, the initial attraction was the fact that they vibrated against his body (and provided sensory stimulation), but since then he has formed a genuine bond with his toy and sleeps with him every night and even pretend plays with him. We never thought we would see this. It’s lovely. I guess most parents take for granted a favourite teddy (we did with our older son), but this has been a real development for B and one we cherish.
- Bubble lamp and light projector. I used to joke about having a sensory room for B (and relinquishing my office room) but have since seen how much he enjoys such spaces and how they can genuinely help him. At our Saturday morning club they have such a room, filled with bubble lamps, twinkly star walls, various coloured lights and different textured things. B likes going in there and having a little time out from the general madness of kids playing and racing round. He loves the lights and colours and, as a result, we thought we’d get him some similar things for his room. He’s still not having my office though!
- Keyboard and Xylophone. Music is an important part of B’s life. He spends a great deal of his time making beatbox noises, like a constant soundtrack to his life. When he isn’t keeping this fantastic rhythm, he is playing CDs or dancing. I think he is innately musical, although I must be careful that I am not simply imposing this on him because I want him to be. His SEYS case worker, herself a musician, recognised it in him too and said we should capitalise on it. Hence the keyboard. This will be perfect because not only is it a musical instrument but it also features his other passion- buttons and knobs and lights and sliders.
- ‘The Michael Jackson Experience’ and ‘Just Dance 3’ Wii games. The Wii is a big favourite in our house and so a Wii game that involves dancing is perfect. B can often be found dancing to CDs and even singing along sometimes. Despite being four (and autistic) he knows much more about what’s in the charts and current music than I do (I blame his mother). I am really looking forward to seeing him moonwalk.
- Various Orchard games. You don’t see these in many places, but they are an excellent series of board games that can be used to encourage social interaction and communication. They are bright and appealing and are called such things as ‘Is it rubbish?’. There’s great value in getting B to sit with his parents and brother and learn turn taking and rules of playing. Keeping my son in his seat long enough to do anything is a breakthrough but these games usually hold his attention for a while.
- Various CDs. As mentioned above, B absolutely loves CDs, to the point of obsession. This creates a dilemma- do we allow him access to something he dearly loves (but to an intolerable degree) or do we try to wean him off them a little? In the car he can be a total pain with his demands for CDs and at home will go to great lengths to get to a CD he wants. The more he can have, the happier he is, although his thirst for them is never satiated. I’ve long since given up trying to protect my CDs from him and have pretty much relinquished them to him. The thing is, as much as he enjoys music, he enjoys putting them on and taking them off in a repetitive fashion much more. We usually get about 20 seconds of a CD before it’s taken out of his player. This is typically autistic, I think. At school he has taken to climbing the furniture to get to CDs. Consequently, they’ve been moved. So I have mixed feelings about giving him more as a gift, even though I know he’ll love opening them on Christmas Day. One thing that is conspicuous by its absence is DVDs. He is even worse with those, to the point where they are rarely allowed. Oh what the heck- it’s Christmas. Of course he can have them.
- Lego. Because you can’t go wrong with Lego, can you?
- PlayDoh. I bloody hate PlayDoh. It’s messy and takes ages to set up and put away and ends up in your sandwich and in your child’s ear. Still, it offers a valuable sensory experience for my son and is therefore on his Christmas list. At least it’s better than Moon Dough (merely thinking about that stuff sends a chill down my spine).
In addition to these things are a whole host of other bits and pieces. My wife has kept a list and it has such things as Magic Monsters, Phineas and Ferb rollercoaster, Angry bird, (lots of) Hot wheels cars, Aqua Doodle, books, Transformers and on and on. I’m not even sure I know what some of those things are.
Worryingly, there are still four weeks left before Christmas. That’s plenty of time for the list to expand further! I suppose some of the things on the list are not your average four year old’s idea of a present (“you bought me a lamp?”) but then my son is not your average four year old. I’m really looking forward to seeing his face on Christmas day. He really gets it this year. To say it’s been a tough twelve months is a massive understatement, so it’s nice to be looking forward to, and feeling positive about, the last part of the year.