It is better to give than to receive. But it helps to give the right gift.

That can be a touchy subject when you have a loved one with a disability. What seems like the perfect toy can be hazardous in a home with a child who throws things. Loud toys might set another child off. The girl who can’t wait to read the Harry Potter series might be better served with a large print or audio version of the books.

Then there are money concerns. Having a disability is expensive, with hidden costs everywhere. Adaptive equipment might be needed, special summer camps are often a costly necessity.

Consider this gift giving guide our gift to you. Send it to the well-meaning gift givers in your life as a way to tell them what you need. Think of it as maximizing their generosity!


Gift cards get a bad rap. However, they are incredibly useful. We can use them to buy for phones and tablets. One Center for Family Involvement staff member is fond of Target and Walmart cards so she can purchase pull ups and diapers, which are particularly pricey when you need adult sizes.


Teachers and therapists often have great ideas for what fun things child might benefit from. Collaborate with them and then share that list with family members, stressing that the professionals in your life find these toys are great tools to aid in hitting developmental milestones.


Another CFI staffer says, “I was not afraid to ask family members to buy some of the assistive technology that my son needed when he was little. We had to get special modulated music CDs and a ginormous headset … It was expensive, so one of the grandparents bought them as a Christmas gift.”

This can apply to family gifts too. If you are need a new wheelchair or an adaptive van, let family know that you’d rather have them pool money for this big purchase that you are saving for rather than having something tangible to open.


Often, the last thing we need are more toys and gadgets. What activities is the receiver interested in? Maybe your child loves bath time. A fun towel, bubbles, color tablet, kid bath bombs, a toothbrush and toothpaste might be perfect. Or your teen is showing an interest in camping. Think hiking socks, sleeping bag, backpack, poncho, and flashlight. For the person who love crafts: adaptive scissors, writing tools, paper, glue sticks, stickers, paint, and paint brushes. For the culinary artists out there: apron, cookbook, utensils, oven mitts, and perhaps a cake mix.

Think about items that need replaced often and help the relative build a themed gift package around it.


In keeping with the theme of themes – several families told me that they appreciated when relatives and close friends contributed to summer camps or other activities that their children can do. We all know how difficult to fill those 10-12 weeks of free time when summer rolls around. One mother I know relies entirely on the generosity of her family to fund her daughter’s summer camps. They love that they can give a gift that is so useful, and the girl LOVES that camp.

We recognize that for many people, giving money for an experience takes the joy away from seeing their loved one open a gift. This is where the theme works again. Giving a cool hat, shorts, and t-shirt to wear to camp would be fun. Or a swimsuit, googles, and a towel to go with the swim lessons you’re gifting.

Or do the whole, box within a box gift gag. In the final box, having a t-shirt with the camps logo or a stuffed animal holding a picture of whatever the camp or activity is.


Sometimes we need outside the box ideas for toys and games. Many of these can be found online. Share the sites you visit when family is looking for gift ideas.

Some of our staff’s favorite websites:


For some people, no amount of hinting or being direct will sway them. They’ll get what they want to get. One staff member told us her 7-year-old was given a full size, real electric guitar out of the blue. They ended up enrolling the child in lessons for 6 months. The mother didn’t divulge what has happened to the guitar since. But she did say, “I also recognize the joy individual family members experience upon finding the perfect gift ‘in their opinion’ and witnessing the surprise on my child’s face.”

Of course, if family members ignore our wishes, they might get their own surprise. Another CFI staffer shared, “For some reason no one in our family seems to want to help with paying for camps …. We usually send an ‘Amazon Christmas List’ with links. The kids have fun searching and creating this list, knowing they might get exactly what they want. The problem we’ve had is grandparents ignore it. On a recent visit, a grandpa stayed in our playroom and after he left, I realized he probably saw all of his gifts from years past still packaged.”


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