“What can I get Bridget for her birthday? (or insert a holiday here)” is one of the most dreaded questions of the season for me. I could give a list a mile long for her sister, from the inexpensive barrette to the pony. Bridget stumps me.
Having a child who has special needs means that they have special gift requests. That toy of the moment? A toy that most likely will be inappropriate for my child. That toy geared to her physical age? That toy will be donated to a local shelter as I cannot stand to watch it collect dust — a reminder that my child is unable to play with it. That toy marketed towards Bridget’s developmental age? Even that is a quandary, as in one skill Bridget might be a 2-year-old and in another she is a 4-year-old.
For those of you shopping for a family member, loved one or friend that has special needs, I have developed the perfect gift list for you:
- Money towards co-payments
- Dinner delivered
- Babysitting offered
- If you see a social media post that says the person had fun (for example, bowling), get them a gift card for a bowling alley
- Gift card to the pharmacy
- Do they have a special diet? Bake a treat just for them to enjoy
- Get together with others to co-opt a therapy tool for their home. Some pieces are expensive (like a gym mat) but when divided by three or four families it would be what you spent on a gift anyway!
- iTunes — seriously a life saver
- Make a donation to their foundation/trust
If all else fails, ask the caregiver. Every year, I provide a list of things Bridget needs, but things we cannot afford. For example, her LoJack/Safety Net system — I will ask family members to contribute to that cost. In the past, I have asked them to pool resources for special therapy equipment for the home (like a special chair for her to have dinner at the table with us). The response has been overwhelming and it is a true gift to Bridget, something she can use and helps her live her life.
Having a child with special needs is incredibly rewarding, but also incredibly expensive. Having friends and family pool resources to provide equipment that allows Bridget to grow is the gift that keeps on giving — even if I still have to convince her grandmother not to buy that doll that will sit on a shelf.