If we think of our favourite Christmas gifts from childhood, it is likely we think of gifts that made us feel seen, special and loved. A Portable Microphone, a McDonald’s kitchen, a Magic Set…..
What we don’t tend to remember are gifts that were given to challenge us or change us. Hopefully, because these gifts were far and few between. As an occupational therapist, I have often been asked by family members of children and teenagers for Christmas gift recommendations. However, 99% of the time I would say the person doesn’t need my recommendation. You know what makes your child light up… be that their favourite old DVD, the hoover, or your most expensive bottle of shower gel…! However, because these items don’t appear on Christmas tv shows, or in the Christmas catalogues, we have been led to believe they are not gifts.
Knowing the gifts we are seeing in the catalogues mightn’t be of interest to our children, there is then a pressure to either buy the toy everyone’s talking about or at least buy something that might improve his fine motor skills/gross motor skills/ visual perception/ a skill you read he finds difficult in his occupational therapy report.
I suppose I think of this as someone buying me a maths puzzle book for Christmas. Sure, I could do with improving my maths, but I can’t say I have any motivation to work on my ‘weaknesses’ on my holidays from work. Certainly not when I am surrounded by people doing their favourite things. Approach Christmas shopping for an autistic child as you might for your Aunt Mary –
“What makes her feel special… what makes her laugh… what shows I understand her”.
A NOTE FROM OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST NIAMH MELLERICK