It’s beginning to look like Christmas

The Christmas season keeps coming earlier and earlier every year. You can see signs of the holidays in September mixed in with Halloween spiders and ghosts.

While some people don’t enjoy the months leading up to Christmas, the teacher always did. It seemed to make people smile more and the children loved it. Her students with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) also recognized the signs of Christmas. It was true that some of the students didn’t fully understand the significance of Christmas but they all seemed to understand what the presents were about.

The teacher had learned long ago to start looking for gifts early. One of her favorite presents had always been My Busy Books. It still was. Each busy book included a story, a map and several tiny interactive play figures in the book box. Barnes and Nobles usually had several My Busy Books in their stock. Some of the choices this year included Zootopia, Jungle Book, The Good Dinosaur, Frozen Fever, Batman and of course Superman.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t always easy to by a dozen or more of the same storybook. The teacher was afraid of buying different ones. Inevitably, one of the children would want someone else’s book. The teacher had tried in the past to buy one of the My Busy Books chosen by each child early in the year. It never worked. Once a child saw someone else’s choice, they would become disappointed.

My Busy Books offered such a wonderful mix of benefits to children. This item is absolutely perfect for Floor Therapy under the DIR Model for creative play.

One of the critical challenges for children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) remains their limited ability to interact appropriately with one another. Children with ASD need lots of practice in social skills, interactive play and communication. My Busy Books give a child the opportunity to do just that. While this particular gift may not be appropriate for older children, it is certainly a great present for the younger ones.

Another great gift to give children with ASD has always been traditional family games such as Candy land, Chutes and Ladders and Jenga. Every year the teacher walks down the aisles of Target, Wal Mart and looks at on the Internet.

She looks at various games and picks those that reflect a child’s age and ability level. Old fashion board games help improve the child’s social skills within the family structure. Traditional gifts of Lego’s and Lincoln Logs remain another wonderful Christmas gift to think about. Families can work together building all kinds of creations. Always think of creative play when buying a gift for an ASD child.

Children also benefit from inexpensive sensory toys. Light up, spin and noise toys can be found at your local Walgreens, Academy, Wal Mart stores and (for specialized ASD items). You can find squishy toys including a variety of animals like snakes and frogs there as well.

Other stores include Michaels and The Dollar Store. They have plenty of tiny little animal figures to put in the stockings. Every year, the teacher recommends her parents to buy large soft blow up balls to bounce on. The children love balls to be partially and fully inflated which are wonderful for calming. The fully inflated ones help get rid of that extra energy, too.

Another store, Kohl’s, remains a teacher’s favorite. That store has a tradition of providing low cost books with stuffed animals to help educate children in reading. Consider buying books from such authors as Eric Carle too. The repetition and visuals are great for special needs children. Of course, make sure whatever you buy is safe and ideally age appropriate.

Pamela Gross Downing, a special education teacher can be reached at