Gift Giving and ADHD: Baseballs or Barbies?

Terry Matlen, ACSW Health Guide
  • Do you remember the worst Christmas or Chanukah gift you ever received as a child? I do. It was a giant, metal, realistic looking stove that had a real door that opened and little pots and pans, a spoon and a spatula. I must have been all of seven years old or so, and when I pulled it out of the box, I nearly burst into tears. At that time in my life, all I was interested in were realistic dolls, Nancy Drew books and board games. I wanted nothing to do with cooking even back then. I suppose one's personality doesn't really change much with age, as I still detest cooking!

    With the holiday season upon us, think back upon your own childhood and reflect on what presents you loved the most--and which you despised. My guess is that some of the ones you hated were those where the giver had hopes of transforming you into something you were not. The non-athletic would get the baseball bats. The tomboys, the Barbie dolls.

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    In many cases, kids with ADHD already have their fill of feeling they've let themselves and others down. School is often a struggle, as are social situations. Many have difficulty playing quietly. Others have problems regulating their emotions.

    When picking out gifts for your youngsters, consider choosing things you know they will truly like - not things you wish they would enjoy. Emphasize their strengths rather than reminding them of their challenges.

    If they love being on the computer, this is the time to spoil them with new software. Does your daughter love rock music? Give her a subscription to a teen music magazine. Consider buying your athletic child a new basketball or tennis racket.

    Still, you can purchase gifts that encourage them to improve in areas in very subtle ways. For example:

    For your sports nut who hates to read, consider buying just one book-maybe one that highlights the life of his favorite sports hero. Make sure you choose a book that is at his current reading level.

    For your socially shy one, buy a packet of movie tickets and promise to take her a few times a month with her choice of friend. Suggest that she pick someone whom she'd like to get to know better. Add a "promise" note that you'll also spoil them both with treats from the refreshment stand. Sometimes kids have trouble "figuring out" how to play together, so spending time at the movies would be a great way to break the ice.

    Does your child hate sports because of poor coordination? Sign him up for karate or other similar self-defense class. Many kids with ADHD really excel here because they are not expected to compete in the same way as in, say, football or basketball. The self-discipline is extremely helpful, too, in increasing concentration skills.

    For the child who has fine motor issues, think about art supplies or art kits. Most kids love making projects or playing with clay. Just make sure you emphasize the pleasure in the process of making art, not in the final project.

    If your child has sensory issues, she may tend to shun away from physical contact, loud noises, and even find it painful to be in places where there are too many people. Certain food textures can be irritating, let alone those tags on the back of her clothes. Occupational therapists have long used beanbags to help children with these sorts of problems. In particular, they seem to be helpful in calming the hyperactive, irritable child because of the compression it lends to them. You may find that your child even enjoys quiet activities, such as reading and (gasp!) doing homework while resting on one.


  • Younger children with sensory problems tend to enjoy all kinds of sand and water play. Purchasing some large bins and filling them with sand, then hiding small items like marbles, miniature plastic animals, etc., can be a great way to help kids overcome their tactile defensiveness. They'll have so much fun; they won't even know it's good for them!

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    Another idea for your hyperactive child (if you're up for it) is a family pet. A child who is hyperactive may find that owning a kitten will actually calm her down by nurturing it. Show her how to handle the kitten carefully, and give her as many responsibilities for its care as possible. Most children will try hard to be gentle with a small animal, and can learn to modulate their own activity level in order to keep the kitten calm.

    With a little bit of foresight, you'll be able to come up with gifts that not only match your child's interests, but also help to improve his fine and gross motor skills, academic abilities, social skills, and more. So, go fire up that Play Station (yes, it can be helpful for eye/hand coordination!) and use playtime on it as a reward for good behavior.

    All in all, match the right present with the personality of your child--not the child you hoped he would be--and make this his best holiday ever!

     

    You'll find just about everything under the sun by shopping at Amazon.com. There are also some excellent gift ideas specific to children with ADHD at www.myADDstore.com 

Published On: November 25, 2008