Monday, November 18, 2019

Buying Christmas Gifts for the Child with Little Speech

My daughter adores Christmas. She loves to help decorate the tree, make sugar cookies, and watch light shows in our area. Jaycee enjoys the occasional Santa spotting as well. Even though her speech is limited, she and Santa can share a hug that means more than 100 words.

Jaycee, who is our 13 year old sweetie with Down syndrome, looks forward to our Christmas gatherings with family. When she was little, she didn't have much interest in the present portion of the night. She often opened up a gift or two and was satisfied with what she received. I recall one year that Jaycee unwrapped a DVD. She was so excited! She went in the other room to watch it rather than opening up the pile of gifts that remained from grandma. Her attitude of contentment and appreciation was something we should all replicate. She eventually opened up the rest of the gifts after enjoying her movie.

Jaycee now unwraps presents until there are none left to open. The hard part has been figuring out what to put in those boxes. To her credit, Jaycee doesn't care much about what is in the present. She smiles and receives anything with love. She never dislikes anything. In that respect, Jaycee is easy to please. Of course, I want Jaycee to like her gifts, but it is almost impossible for Jaycee to let me know what she wants.

"What would you like for Christmas?" I ask Jaycee in hopes she will give an answer.

She replies with speech and sign language, "Christmas tree." I don't think she wants a tree. I think she is associating my question with the tree where the presents go.

Other times, she answers my question with, "Presents."

She isn't verbally able to answer the question that so many parents ask this time of year. My 10 year-old son, on the other hand, is able to give a long wish list and often pulls up the desired item on Amazon.

What is a mom to do for a child who can't say what they desire? I want her Christmas to be special, but I also know it's not that important to her. I try not to stress about her gifts, and simply go with what I know. 

There are some things I have found helpful over the years. Here are my three tips for buying gifts for the child who can't express what they want.

1. If public outings are an option, take the child shopping. 
As Jaycee has gotten older, it has been helpful to take her to a store to see what interests her in the toy, movie, and clothing aisles. For years, Jaycee only choose items in the store that she already had at home. She gravitated toward the familiar, so shopping wasn't helpful.

Now, she can pick out things she likes, which makes it easier for all of us. Generally, she chooses toys or items with familiar characters, but sometimes she surprises me. This year, she has chosen an Elsa doll and a Lion King shirt on our shopping trips.

2. Consider what the child watches. 
Jaycee had favorite movies and television shows starting at age two. We purchased movies and items for her based on shows she already liked. When Barney the dinosaur was a favorite, I bought a stuffed Barney, for example. 

Last year, I took this same principle and applied it to YouTube. Jaycee loves watching a plethora of YouTube videos. In particular, she loved watching people open LOL surprise dolls and makeup tutorials. I don't wear makeup, so this was completely her interest. For gifts, we decided to buy her the LOL dolls and makeup because she had neither. Jaycee loved them both. Jaycee has added to her makeup collection over the whole year, and it has been fun to see a new interest develop. It all started because of YouTube.

3. D├ęcor for the win. 
Over the years, when I have struggled to find a gift, I purchased something for Jaycee's room. It is money well spent because she spends a good deal of time in her room. We have purchased a new dresser, a large Beauty and the Beast wall sticker, Beauty and the Beast bed sheets, and Disney wall hangings. It's something she can enjoy all year round. 
Christmas is a magical time of year. As parents, we want all of our children to enjoy the season and participate. Even if a child isn't able to verbalize what they want for Christmas, hopefully we can come up with ideas that they can enjoy. My best advice is this: Trust your instincts as a caregiver. You know your child best. I'm sure you will know how to make Christmas special for your child. Happy shopping! 
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