Contributed by Monica Alves, Communications Intern

With Christmas just around the corner, you may find yourself scrambling for those last minute gift ideas. Buying presents for your friends and family isn’t always an easy task. And if this special someone lives with a developmental disability, there may be a few extra sensitivities you need to take into consideration. Of course, gifts and spending money should never be the main emphasis of the holidays. It’s about spending quality time with the people you care about. But if you’re really feeling the shopping stress of the season, we want to offer you a helping hand! Here are a few of our favourite gift recommendations for your friend or loved one with a developmental disability.



Outings and Activities

Still struggling to find that perfect gift? Why not plan a special activity that both you and your loved one can do together! Partaking in active experiences over material items often make for the best memories. You can follow a simple recipe, take a trip to the grocery store and cook up a delicious meal together. Try out one of these easy and scrumptious pie baking recipes here. You can also take a trip to the aquarium, zoo, or out to a movie or relaxed performance of a play. Check out our blog post on accessible winter activities here for some more festive outing ideas open until January. You could even go on winter nature walk adventure. Bring along a camera to snap photos of interesting things you spot along the way! Here is a list of some of our favourite accessible hiking spots in BC. Make fun little coupons for these outings and activities to offer to your friends and loved ones!



Weighted Blanket

Not too long ago, these blankets were only used as a tool in therapy and psychiatry. They have been used in treatment for individuals with autism and other disorders, encouraging them to focus on sensory experiences and improving abilities to regulate their behaviour and emotions. Also known as gravity blankets, these blankets are now a hot commodity on the market, and are specifically designed to reduce discomfort, stress and anxiety through deep pressure. Studies have shown an increase in dopamine, serotonin and melatonin levels — your happy and sleepy hormones! This is the perfect gift for someone who struggles with sleeping. Weighted blanket wearers find themselves fidgeting less, and ultimately achieving a calmer and more relaxed state of mind. Please note that we do not recommend this gift for children.



Sensory Mood Light

Lava lamps, LED light projectors, water bubble tanks and everything in between…with such a wide variety of sensory mood lighting products, you’ll surely find the perfect type for that special someone! Not only do these funky lights know how to spruce up a room, they also serve as a tool for relaxation through soothing visuals. Harsh or flickering lights are unpleasant to be in contact with, especially for those who face challenges with cognition and regulation of their emotions. These lights can help create a calmer atmosphere and Zen oasis where one can go to unwind and recharge. Bubble tanks with artificial ocean creatures are particularly great for individuals who want an aquarium but are unable to take care of a real one.



Art Kit

Art is a powerful medium for creative expression. It allows us to connect with ourselves and others, and share our unique view of the world around us. For individuals with disabilities, an art supplies kit can give them the opportunity to translate the barriers they face in their daily lives into visual art. Supplies can include canvas paper, pencil crayons, acrylic paint sets, beads, sequins, pipe-cleaners, paint brushes, sponges and even an easel! By providing your friend or loved one with tools to make countless creations, this is a gift that keeps on giving.



Noise Canceling Headphones

For individuals with developmental disabilities, processing information in certain situations can be a major difficulty. Add in some loud background noise and this could result in a sensory overload. Does your friend or loved one experience hyper-reactivity to audio stimuli? Buy them a pair of noise canceling headphones! These work to help reduce disruptive sounds and allow users to boost their focus. They do this by blocking out higher frequency sounds waves. Tuning out these distractions can help someone with a disability to direct their full attention to the important thing at hand, such as following directions to get to a location. This assistive technology can be a beneficial accessory in many situations.



Special Interest Gifts

Giving your friend or loved one a gift focused on their special interests or hobbies will truly show them how much you care. Just look at how happy Matthew was when he was gifted with a toy cement truck! Do they have a favourite super hero or a celebrity crush? Do they love cats or enjoy collecting stickers? From comic books to makeup, candles to board games, taking the time to identify their special interest will help guide you to a thoughtful and well-appreciated gift.