It’s that time…a time for giving…giving gifts and giving time.
Luke Landas found that, “While the cost of raising a child to age 18 might average around $200,000, dealing with autism could add another $25,000 a year in medical costs.” (https://www.autism-mi.org/Portals/0/Documents/Financial/The%20Cost%20of%20Raising%20a%20Child%20with%20Autism.pdf)
We have been very lucky that the ‘added’ cost has been minimal, but there are added costs nonetheless. What can you give a family who is on the spectrum journey?
I’ve provided a top 10 list…some cost money – some cost time. All are equally helpful.
#1 – Support. Read more, learn more, understand more – show them you care.
#2 – Time to Parent(s). Offer to give them a night out. Offer to watch their child(ren) so the parent(s) can reconnect with each other or with friends.
#3 – Time for Siblings. This time could be offered in two ways and I’ll comment more on this tomorrow.
- Offer to give them an afternoon/lunch/night alone with the neurotypical sibling(s). Siblings often get the short end.
- Offer to take the sibling(s) and do something fun – something unique – something they don’t normally get to do because of their ASD sibling.
#4 – Gas Cards. Yes, it takes more – more appointments, more here are there, more meetings. All of that takes more miles…more gas.
#5 – Passes to Health Centers/Pools. I’ve already blogged about how helpful water is to many on the spectrum (See Day #37 – Water in California). It’s real and we know it – not having to pay to see our children happy would make us very happy!
#6 – Calming Gifts. These are items that can be used to help children soothe and calm themselves during times of distress.
- Vibrating toys
- Items that have slow and repetitive motions
- Weighted blankets or lap pads
- My newest favorite? We don’t have one – but one of Tucker’s Special Education teachers has one in her room. There are days I would LOVE the Cozy Canoe. (http://funandfunction.com/cozy-canoetm.html) I’m afraid if we had one I would never get Tucker out.
#7 – Sensory Gifts. These items help to fulfill the hyper-hypo sensory needs of an individual. This can be difficult – asking parents if they are hyper/hypo is imperative when buying toys. A toy with too much/too little stimulation can cause stress.
- Visual toys
- Tactile toys – remember koosh balls? They could be just the thing that helps!
#8 – Language Development Gifts- These gifts could range from flashcards to board games that help build sentences. Most of these you could actually make with a computer (or sharpie) and index cards.
- I know this seems odd – but we used a set of something ‘like these’ but they were homemade. ‘Slang’ flashcards. http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/slang-flashcards
- Another GREAT resource is Lakeshore Learning. I used to get their catalogs – until I found I was buying WAY more than what we really needed. Here is another set of flashcards that would be incredibly helpful: http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/product/productDet.jsp?productItemID=1%2C689%2C949%2C371%2C918%2C247&ASSORTMENT%3C%3East_id=1408474395181113&bmUID=1419111636892
#9 – Social Skills Gifts
- Games, games, and more games. Sure there are games that specifically target feelings and reactions of people. I’m referring to games in general – play games with these children. Children on the spectrum need practice, practice, practice in understanding turn taking, recognizing others’ emotions, empathizing with others, engaging in conversation, and understanding rules (and how they can change). When Tucker was younger I made ‘Novice,’ ‘Intermediate,’ and ‘Expert’ cards. When we taught Tucker a game he would receive his novice card. The novice card would allow some bending of the rules, help without ‘cheating,’ and re-do’s. The intermediate card would allow help without cheating and re’do’s. Finally, when he was ready he would receive his expert card (along with a certificate that we placed on the refrigerator). Yes, we made it a big deal – yes, it helped him understand. Yes, when he claimed to not understand or start to have a melt-down we reminded him of the certificate that showed he was an ‘expert’ so he would have to suffer the consequences. For some games this process took 6 months (Cribbage), for others it took 4-5 times playing the game.
#10 – Time Management/Scheduling Gifts
- White boards, chalk boards, cork boards – any type of board that we can use to help make sense of all activities/needs in the house.
- I bought one of these and we used, used, used, used it like crazy. It’s a visual timer with color coding. I would set it in the morning before school – it was easy for Tucker to recognize in his earlier years (by color) and as he aged he could see and recognize the time left before we needed to ‘go’ or ‘stop.’ http://www.learningresources.com/product/time+tracker–174-+visual+timer+-amp-+clock.do?sortby=bestSellers&sortby=&&from=