Secret Santa Special-Needs Kid Help

Need answer fast…:slight_smile:
A coworker does a secret santa project for a group she works with to help some seriously disadvantaged kids. She has a list of names and their situations, and we pick out one (or more) to help out. They have a particular toy on request. That’s the easy part. Then the instructions say: If you would like to do anything additional for the child you choose, feel free and include it in the bag. Many of these kids have nothing and this will be the only thing they get for the holidays, possibly all year. Suggestions include underwear, a warm coat, school supplies, socks, a backpack.

Here’s my kid: Little Nemo (all the names are changed to protect the innocent) is a 3 year old male who was a “drug addicted infant at birth and experiencing delays in his growth.” He probably lives in a foster home, and these items are given to the foster parent to give to the child. He wants a “Leap Frog My First Leap Pad”, a play laptop toy. Got that. I also got him a wipe-off marker activity book that looked nice. I would like to do more, but the suggestions they made don’t seem right. I don’t want anything extravagant or stupid. Something useful, but still fun? I could pick out some more books, but I know so little about him. Clothes? No idea on size.

Any ideas??

Duplo blocks?

I would get a backpack and fill it up with dollar store school supplies- paints, construction paper, washable markers, scissors, clay/playdough, etc. I’d also estimate size for a 3 year old (I don’t have kids so I’d ask someone who does an “average” size) and pick up a jacket with a few pair of mittens (with mitten clips), and some socks.

Something with his name on it. I used to get the names of all the kids 3 and older my office did Secret Santa stuff for and make each one of them a personalized bracelet in glow-in-the-dark alphabet beads on stretchy glow-in-the-dark plastic string. I got great feedback from the organizers. Foster kids especially may rarely get anything that’s uniquely theirs, as opposed to hand-me-downs or anonymous donated gifts. Obviously a three-year-old with developmental issues may not be able to read his own name yet, but he’s old enough to know it’s cool to have your name on something. Bonus points if the kid’s name is spelled in an unusual way or has an accent mark anywhere in it and you get it exactly right.

A kid-sized blanket in a kid-friendly pattern. A foster kid may end up sleeping in a series of beds, none of which may feel like they’re really totally his, but it can help to have your own blanket on top. At any decent fabric store, you can get yardage of fleece fabric that doesn’t ravel at the cut edges and so doesn’t even need to be hemmed, in a wide variety of designs and colors. (If you want to get fancy, you can carefully cut fringes on the two cut sides.) A yard and a half of 45-60" wide fleece is about right for a kid. The newer fleeces are incredibly soft. I wouldn’t recommend the “curly” style shag fabric for this, though, silky as it is, as it tends to shed bits everywhere for a long time. If you choose a not-babyish-but-boyish pattern, he can use it for several years – a lot longer than any clothing would fit.

This is a good suggestion. I work with autistic preschoolers and the stuff they go the most nuts for is the random junk I pick up in the dollar bin at Target. Maybe get a stocking to make it more holiday-ish. My kids especially like slinkys, silly putty, goopy slime stuff, squishy balls, wooden blocks, and those light-up toys that spin.

Just a note: if he’s three and delayed, he probably doesn’t have the motor skills to write or do any sort of craft-type stuff.

Pillow pet. Like one of the brown puppy pillow pets, or the bear. Every time I go into a store that sells them I see kids taking them out and snuggling them. It’s all my little girl wanted. I can imagine it would be something he’d be able to carry along as a toy but use for a pillow, to snuggle when he’s sad or tired.

I suppose cute socks, maybe some of those fuzzy character socks.

I like the blanket idea. I’d also include a stuffed animal of some sort. Comfort is comfort.

Pillow pet sounds like a good idea. I don’t actually know the boy’s name so that’s out. I know that craft stuff won’t work. Pyper, my daughter works with autistic kids and I know what you’re saying. She is always grabbing stuff that she thinks her kids will enjoy, and it’s like that. I don’t know this boy and I won’t ever know who he is. I’m just hoping I can help him a little. I just love being able to turn to this board for good ideas.

Do autistic kids enjoy being read to? I always give Dr. Seuss books to kids. I believe that Hop on Pop is about that age range, with a lot of silliness that kids love. My daughter had a cardboard book of nursery rhymes that she loved when she was about 2 til she was 5 (when she decided that the cardboard page books were baby’s books).

Other than that…at the age of three, quantity is much more important than quality, in the kids’ eyes. So get a lot of bright, cheap toys (that won’t break easily). I think a nice bright blanket would be great, too. There are loads of cheap, warm blankets available that are ever so snuggly, some in very kid-friendly patterns. Most boys love dinosaurs from the time they’re able to understand them.

It depends on the kid and the book. My mom works with autistic kids, and it’s surprising how many of the kids like the same things as their neurotypical counterparts: TV, computer games, etc.

Also, you’d need to be prepared for the kid that will parrot the book back to you.

Regarding clothing sizes, if he’s small for his age (which is what I assume ‘delays in growth’ means, I would go for size 2 or 3 clothing - maybe 3 and he can grow into it. If you’re in a colder climate, a warm hat, scarf mittens should be easy, and some fun underwear (Cars? Batman? etc) might be fun and practical.

Is it possible to get a wee bit more info? I ask because if he is in a foster home perhaps include a gift receipt and the parent can swap out items that don’t fit. You can also pump the organizers for size info - I know I’ve done that in the past with adopt-a-families.

Sadly, Dr. Seuss has never been a hit with my students. Autistic kids have impairments in communication, which means they have trouble understanding basic language, not to mention language full of rhymes and nonsense words like Dr. Seuss. My kids enjoy books with colorful, clear illustrations, and short, simple, repetitive phrases. “Goodnight Moon” and “No, David!” are popular.

The suggestions are all very useful. I have to wrap this up before Friday, so maybe I’ll try a book and a gift certificate. My daughter bought one of the “Little Critter” books that we used to read for her kids. “I Was So Mad” sounded like a pretty good choice. And maybe some kids PJs. We’re in Southern California, so warm isn’t really necessary.
Thanks guys.

Some sort of toy truck / car might be a huge hit. Dweezil loved his Thomas the Tank Engine stuff. Duplo is always good but hard to keep track of the pieces.

Books are always good to, though I agree that Dr. Seuss is not necessarily the best choice. Something board-bookish, with bright colors and lots of pictures (Dorling Kindersley books tend to be great choices).

I don’t know much about kids in foster care, but it seems to me that you’d be better off getting something without too many pieces and portable. From what I understand, foster kids can be moved often, and something that can go with him easily would be good. And I hate to say it, but I’m afraid a gift card would go right ot the foster parent for their needs, instead of this little guy.


I moved my kids out of their foster home 11 months ago. I need to go pick them up so I’ll be brief. Don’t get books. Foster homes tend to have a lot of children in them and few adults thus no one has time to read to them.

Do get snuggly things.

As a general rule of thumb for kids between 2 and 6, you can get the clothing size of their age and generally be about right. Obviously, this won’t work for kids on either end of the growth curve, but an “average” 3 year old is usually a size 3T, a 4 year old a 4T, etc.

If he’s small for his age, I’d get 3T, especially if he’s in a cold climate and will be wearing layers for the next few months. Worse case is he’s got something to grow into.

Kids in foster care don’t have very much that is theirs, so that is very important that he has a thing to open, and a gift certificate can be disappointing to open along with being easy to use on someone else. I would really look at the board books with tactile stuff in them. There is a whole series of books one of which is called Pet the Cat or some such. There are things like fuzzy fake fur and sandpaper for kids to touch. It gives him something to do with the book even if no one has the time to read it to him.

I would second a stuffed animal. Someone to talk to is kind of important.

Duplo blocks would be cool but there needs to be enough of them to actually play with and the child may not be actually staying in that house. It can be really difficult to keep his blocks out of the rest of the blocks in the house and hard to collect when he has to leave.