Gifts of Giving – Providing Opportunities of Giving to Your Child with Special Needs

The holidays bring us chilly weather and busy shopping malls. When you live in a family impacted by special needs, sometimes life can become more hectic than it already is. While receiving a favorite toy can be exciting, teaching our kids how to think of others can also be worthwhile. This holiday season, I challenge you to utilize the holiday spirit to provide opportunities for your child for giving back. Depending on your child’s abilities and/or behaviors, it might take time to decide what’s best for your family. Enabling my students with autism to contribute to the community or others has been very rewarding.

Support Your Community
If you have a child who is able to interact directly with the community, you might choose something that a typical individual might do.

  • Is there a local soup kitchen where your son or daughter could help set up, serve or clean up?
  • Does your city have a social services department that is busy accepting or wrapping gifts for needy families?
  • Perhaps you and your child could go door-to-door in your neighborhood asking for canned food donations for the local food banks.

These are just a few options that you and your kids could do together. I am sure you could think of more.

Less Challenging Supportive Options
If it is too challenging for your child to accompany you on such a direct interaction, there are certainly many other rewarding options.

  • Perhaps you could adopt a family to provide an emergency grocery bag for the holiday season. You can make a visual shopping list of basic non-perishables and then take your child on a grocery store scavenger hunt for those items. Your child can help box up those items and accompany you on the delivery.
  • Maybe your child can help you pick from an ornament “giving tree” by adopting one child and help pick out that child’s gift. Having the ornament as a visual reminder might help your child understand that you are buying this gift for someone else. To help your child understand this concept, you may want to let him pick out something small at the same time to reward him for thinking of others.

No Challenge Supportive Options 
If it is too challenging (behavior-wise) to venture too far into the community, consider these other options.

  • Maybe you can contact your local Meals on Wheels organization and offer to make “tray favors” or goodie bags to go with their holiday meals. My daughter and I used to do this monthly for various holidays. She was in preschool, but it taught her to think of others while also giving us time together to create a little craft.
  • Or think of an art form that your child can do and make holiday cards for local group homes. For some of these folks, receiving a card from your child might be the brightest part of their day.

Use the holiday season to make this “gift of giving” something that fits into your family’s schedule. You might find that the activity you choose can be an annual holiday tradition. Happy holidays!

As the new year approaches, Resolve to do One Thing!

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Joanna Keating-Velasco About Joanna Keating-Velasco

Joanna Keating-Velasco has worked with students with various special needs ages 3 through 22 as a Paraprofessional for over fifteen years and is currently specializing in adult transition. She has authored two books, A Is for Autism, F Is for Friend and In His Shoes – A Short Journey through Autism. Learn more about Joanna at A is for Autism.