It’s that time of year. The stores are decorated, the music is starting to show up on the radio, and commercials are full of what to buy your loved ones. But, if you’re a special needs parent, it’s not always simple. For many of our kids, their developmental age and their chronological age are two different things. Throw in the sensory stuff, and you're left wondering what in the heck to buy them! Pinterest to the rescue! If you look, there are thousands of pins discussing what to buy your special needs child for the holidays. They are full of great ideas for the stumped Santa! But, this post isn’t about what to buy. This is about what NOT to buy.
(*Disclaimer – I have no specific training and this is not an expert opinion. These are just lessons that I have learned as my ten years as a mom to an adorable, sensory-seeking, non-verbal kiddo who has autism. A kiddo that really likes to figure out how things work.)
Therapy putty – You’ve seen it. It comes in cool containers and bright colors. It may have sparkles and smell good. And it says “therapy” right in the name! Must be perfect, right? WRONG! Therapy putty should stay in therapy. What you don’t see on the cute packaging is that it sticks…everywhere. And when you pull it like taffy, little wisps of it fly in the air and then stick…everywhere. Don’t believe me? My son’s favorite blanket has spots of green glitter putty on it from 3 years ago. Come to think of it, so does the carpet under the couch.
Bean bag chair – I know what you’re thinking – “What can this crazy lady possibly say against bean bag chairs?”. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, look to the right. No, that is not snow in my son’s room.That is the contents of one, child-sized bean bag chair. That is 4 hours of my life, 5 constructor’s black garbage bags (one of which had a hole), and countless times emptying the shop vac. Personally, I love bean bag chairs, but my son will never again have one.
Lava lamp – Got that 70’s vibe? Lava lamps are great for kids after a meltdown who need to chill. But do you know what lava lamps are made of? Water, alcohol, and oil. Colored oil. Sometimes with glitter. And the container that holds this fascinating mixture is made of glass or plastic. That can be broken. If you want to know what it's like to clean up a broken lava lamp, spill some Italian dressing on the floor and then try to mop it up. The saying, "Like oil and water" is true.
Compression sheets – Does your child love to be squeezed? Then a compression sheet is the perfect gift! It fits right on the bed and provides sensory input all night. “Sounds great, my arms are tired from squeezing him all the time.” Don’t do it. What the descriptions don’t show is how hard it is to get on the bed. In fact, the first night, my husband asked me why I bought our son a “mattress condom”. It was next to impossible to get on with both of us working on it! And if your child still occasionally wets the bed, just don’t. Trust me on this.
Water beads – Don’t. Just don’t.
I know that the manufacturers of said products mean well, and that for most children, these items are wonderful. But I also know that some of us have kids with the sweetest faces who love taking things apart, and that many of those Pinterest lists don’t take that into account. So if your little elf is a sensory-seeking investigator like mine, take my advice, or stock up on cleaning supplies and wine!
Happy Holidays everyone!