We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.
I know this quote may seem a bit dark, or rather just real, but to be honest, it is the last line, we all have this opportunity to focus on. As you know, I LOVE the holidays. To me this is the epitome of the choice of how we live. It gives us the perfect happy circumstances and the rest is up to us. The smells, music, baking, giving, thoughtfulness, decorations, joy, happiness, and gratitude. All of these things make this holiday special, and with the stroke of this magical time, we are all special. Allowed to be thought of as unique.
People spend hours upon hours, thinking about what might be uniquely special to us. I am by nature, or at least I try to be, a giver based on someones uniqueness. What they like, what they enjoy, what makes them, oh so uniquely them. As life and fate would have it, I also now have a little special radiant unique baby girl who is considered “special needs.”
In her uniqueness, she spins the world on its axis. She brings sunshine with her smile on days when it can be overcast both literally and metaphorically and gives us all something to work for, to be better for. She makes us understand that it’s not really her that is so special but that all of us are special in our own way. We choose the way we live, how we treat others, how we make others feel. She reminds us that kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness are the greatest gifts we can give people day to day. We should not judge, but rather remind ourselves that we are all special and unique, and whatever you see on the outside, on the surface, to truly give and to be aware, is to tune in to what might be happening on the inside or at the very least, it is to try.
To be honest, even though I have always prided myself on being “in-tune” or “thoughtful” of what others might want for the holidays, I had never encountered a family with a special needs, or to be more accurate, a special needs family that I knew of…now I am one.
In the former days of gift giving, I might have given a toy or some clothing but without knowledge or sensitivity to texture, needs, color, development or goals. My, how the world opens up and presents you with different opportunities for learning. This new world exposes us to people who can teach you and remind you that not all people are the same. That we all like different things, respond to different things, need different things, and cope differently with different things.
I am so grateful for this now. To have the opportunity to be special. To have learned and seen what might help others in addition to us. Each day, I have the benefit of learning something. Whether it’s a therapist who shows me a new technique or the opportunity to focus on something differently, more intently because it may benefit E, or some other child with special needs.
Today, as the holidays approach, I want to share with you some ideas for gift giving for families with special needs. It won’t take long and the list is not extensive. It’s more thought-starters. Things that might get you thinking or asking questions. We often get asked, for the better, what we need or want for the babies, and I am so grateful for we are so fortunate to have more than enough. But there is something to be said for Chanukah or Christmas, where there are presents to be opened and smiles to be had and joy, to know that this experience has happened. And yet, there is also something to be said, for things that help your wee one with their situation and your family for your needs, and so this is meant to help both. To give ideas and potential resources for families that already know and family members and friends that may not.
(editor’s note: these recommendations are those of the author and have worked for her family)
1. With the smart phone and tablet technology, iTunes gift cards can be amazing gifts. iTunes gift cards are wonderful because as some of the special needs apps are very expensive it can really help to offset some of the costs for these families. For example, for kids with Autism, here are some apps that have promoted on shows such as 60 minutes, and some these we have actually used in our home for E’s CP (Q who is not considered on the spectrum also loves the First Words Delux and See Touch Learn, his vocab has dramatically improved since allowing him to play with these apps) point being, everyone can enjoy them but they may also help the wee one with special needs :
-First words delux
Additionally, there are others, that, depending on the child’s condition can be purchased to help with vision, learning, association and auditory. I am happy to share the others that I have learned outside of these if you are interested, please feel free to contact me directly. Before using any apps with flashing technology you should contact your pediatrician if you child is prone to seizures as some have blinking technology.
2. Gift cards for Big Box (Target, Best Buy, etc.) retailers that sell tablets. Tablet devices are becoming more and more integrated into special needs programs in schools as they are starting to help even the most difficult cases with special needs children from Autism to Cerebral Palsy. Any tablet whether it’s an iPad or Samsung (and any other) may be able to benefit and open doors for these families in a way that they may not have been able to access before. For both E and Q, we have seen great strides in learning through different apps for each, but we wouldn’t have been able to access these apps in the way we have without having a tablet in our home. Now that we have one, Q often says Pa…for iPad. He also now says, black, blue, and many of the letters of the alphabet. It is also the only time he has used please. For E she is exposed to different scenarios, sounds, and interactivity that helps her in small ways daily.
3. Visit http://www.snapps4kids.com/ (Special Needs Apps 4 Kids). If you know a child with special needs this site is an amazing resource to look up apps based on the diagnosis of the child. Note, you research the apps here and then go to the App store to buy the apps or you can buy a gift card and recommend the site or the recommended apps to your loved ones.
4. Gifts/Gift cards to Lakeshore Learning http://www.lakeshorelearning.com/home/home.jsp?ASSORTMENT%3C%3East_id=1408474395181113&bmUID=1323757493153. Some of the best gifts we received for the kids birthday were bought through Lakeshore, It is a store/site dedicated to developmental learning. If the child has Sensory Processing Disorder or other issues, this place is excellent for navigating gifts for different aspects of a child’s development.
5. Gifts Certificates to Diapers.com or Target. Often children with special needs also have special requirements for eating, drinking and basic necessities. These things can become very expensive for parents as they go about their daily routines. For example, E was on Similac Alimentum Formula for the first 20 months of her life. At $28/can that lasts 3 days. it was always nice when we got a gift card to help us pay for the basic necessities.
6. Other sites such as The Coffee Klatch are dedicated to parents of children with special needs. As part of this dedication, they often come out with helpful interviews, resources and information that will benefit families. Recently, they came out with a book recommendation list for he holidays. I am copying the link here, if you are interested in reviewing, here is the link http://thecoffeeklatch.com/the-coffee-klatch-parents-holiday-wish-list/
I know there are other items that other parents might recommend, and I really invite you to share them here. I am obviously still relatively new to this situation, but I also really try to educate myself and learn as much as I can so that I might help E, and other parents. That said, I welcome any and all input as it can really only help us all. It is my hope that if you do know someone or a family with special needs who you will be buying a holiday gift for, that this might be helpful in some way, either by sharing it with them directly or by sharing it with them as a “would this be helpful for you” suggestion.
I wish you all a happy and joyful holiday season. I hope we can all celebrate our uniqueness and that for those of us with family members who might benefit from a different take on this gift giving season. I thank you all for reading this and for being an amazing support to us. Your support and love is all we really need this holiday season and our gratitude to you all makes today my family’s ‘newfavoriteday.’ I hope that this will have a ripple effect to your heart and make today ‘yournewfavoriteday!’