See if you can follow the flow on this. My child has autism. They make toys that are specifically categorized for “children with autism”. Therefore, he should love those toys, right?
And, with that, we go down the rabbit hole that most parents to children like mine know, but rarely discuss.
The reason it is rarely discussed is that when we, as parents on the spectrum, talk about the difficulties of buying toys, most people assume we mean toys in general. My non-verbal son doesn’t want to play with wrestling figures. He doesn’t care about Lite Brite or Starting Lineup Talking Baseball. He never has.
Even toys based on things he actively likes he doesn’t want. Singing and Dancing Elmo? Bought it. Hated it. Sat above the washing machine until we threw it out. Same for the Wiggles guitars, microphones, and dinosaur dolls. For my boy, it’s either the real person or nothing. Save yo’ Gabba Gabba figures and Tsum Tsum dolls. He doesn’t want ’em.
We are all in agreement on that. When it comes to typical toys, my kid is typically not interested. People who know him can assume that. He likes what he likes.
However, these people think that luckily for us there is an autism sensory toy section on Amazon. Kids on the spectrum can get magical toys that will immediately grip them. Every kid with autism loves every toy on the Amazon list. After all, these are autism toys. It just makes sense.
There’s nothing magical about the things here. While they exemplify “autism” in the CBS primetime lineup sense of the word, it’s not how it is in our house. When he was younger, we had no idea that autism in our home could mean a completely different thing to another. We tried. We tried them all.
My son isn’t into fidget things. He doesn’t spin around tops or marvel at carousels. I can see how some people, with or without autism, could be, but that isn’t his thing. While he has given it a go now and then, it feels like he’s appeasing us. He holds it and gives me the ol’, “Are you kidding me with this nonsense?” face.
Personally, I love squishy stress ball toys. Those little squeezable clouds with faces and the like have lined our toy shelves since my daughter was in diapers. It’s a big hit with two of the three people who live here.
Lucas isn’t one of them.
Right up there with the spinner face, his reaction to these squishy things always makes me laugh. As he’s engrossed in his iPad, we’ll hand him one. Gaze fixed on the screen, he grasps it tightly and releases it a few times. There’s a faint level of excitement from me and my daughter over the prospect that he might finaly like it.
Then, he stops and stares down at his hand with an expression of, “What is this crap?”
And… it’s gone.
One Christmas we got that stretchy blue sensory body sock thing. It is supposed to make your kid look like Maggie Simpson in the winter. You know the one. I tried putting it on him once. It didn’t go well. The only proof we have that we owned it is a picture of his sister, many years ago, wearing it. I had to crop the face off or else she’d go nuts.
For the more adventurous among us, there’s the giant squeezy body canoe. It costs a good chunk, but it’s kind of worth it. I wanted to crawl inside and live in this huge thing. You’d climb in like a hotdog entering a six-foot bun and let the giant balloon walls hug you. What’s not to like?
Well, maybe the size. This thing was comically big. You couldn’t even put it away when it wasn’t being used. It was like having a blow-up pool filled with sand in your living room. For the amount that he sat on it, the real estate space alone made it not worthy it. Still, it stayed…
Until some kid poked a hole in it.
And then it was gone. I was both annoyed and relieved all at once.
Do you want to know what my boy gets for Christmas? Most years, I try to get him new copies of his favorite books that have been torn apart. To Lucas, reading is a combat sport. The more he loves it, the more chance they will be torn from excitement. It makes me happy to see his face when he gets presents I know will be a hit.
Many of the extra stocking-stuffers he gets aren’t “age appropriate.” That’s fine, though. I learned long ago that ages are a suggestion and, as long as he loves something, he will always be allowed to have it. I don’t care if there’s a baby on the box or not. He’s my baby anyway. So there ya go. Toy phones and light up remotes will be on his list until he shows me otherwise. Then I’d probably still buy them out of habit.
IPads? Yeah. That’s a go-to. He loves them and you can never have enough thanks to Facebook Marketplace. Some of ours have gone swimming. Some have gotten cracked. Either way, there’s always a need for devices here and always someone willing to sell an old one for like $40. No need for the newest one. My son only uses it for YouTube kids and Elmo’s Monster Maker anyway. We have three.
I have been smartening up, though. Rather than waste money on things that I know won’t get a reaction, I’ve thought ahead. Want to know what he’s getting this year? I’ll tell you, but you can’t tell him. Aside from some safe choices like body pillows and Leap Frog electronics, I took a froggy leap of my own.
I got him Air Jordans.
This may be the best one yet. As someone with no knowledge of sneakers, I just knew he needed new ones and I know I like him to dress snazzy. So, while scrolling around to simply buy them out of necessity, I came across a pair of futuristic-looking shiny sneakers online. I showed it to my daughter.
Hey. Do you think Lucas would like sneakers like these?
Her eyes widened.
Uh, yeah. I would like sneakers like that.
And now they’re under the tree. But, again, shhhh.
Will he love them? I guess. No more or less than he would love a stretchy blue pajama or a pogoball. But at least he will look cool and comfortable. They are comfortable, right? I have no idea. He’ll jump high, I hear.
There are so many molds my boy doesn’t fit into. To be honest, I’m glad he doesn’t. He’s unique and his taste in gifts says the same. I just want him to always have a happy holiday. I wish they had a category on Amazon for that.