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21 Gifts for Parents and Caregivers of Children with Special Needs

A few years ago, someone shared with me a great system they used for buying Christmas gifts in their family. They bought only three things for each person: something they needed, something they wanted, and something to read. I put a little twist on this idea to share with you a list of items you might consider if you have someone in your life that has a child with special needs.

7 Things They Need

We can all agree that life with kids can get pretty hectic but can you imagine having a child with special needs that has multiple therapy appointments, out-of-town doctor appointments, or frequent meetings at the school? For families of children with special needs, the hours in the day seem to run out sometimes. Here are a few things you can purchase that might help fill in the gaps of things they wish they had time for.


  • Meal Service

    • Healthy meals are important for everyone! Find a local healthy food prep company or food delivery option and purchase a gift certificate or a subscription. Make sure to think about if there are food allergies or other food sensitivities that need to be considered.


  • House Cleaning

    • There isn’t much that compares to the feeling of walking into a clean house. Find an awesome house cleaning service or someone you know and trust, then gift a free month or two of house cleaning to make life a little lighter for the family.


  • Respite

    • Finding a babysitter can be the most daunting task for a couple with a child with special needs. Would you and your spouse or other friends be willing to give up a night to hang out with their child so that they can go on a date night – free of charge! Surprise the family with money to enjoy a special dinner together while you hang out and have fun with their kids!


  • Car Detailing

    • Crushed Cheetos, sippy cups stuck under the seat, empty drink cups, papers from different appointments, and so much more. They fill up the car quickly and can make for an unpleasant feeling when you are starting your day traveling to drop your kids off at school or go to a doctor’s appointment. Here’s an opportunity for another gift card – or offer to take their car for a couple of hours and empty all the contents then take their car to be detailed.


  • Gas Cards

  • Hotel Stays

    • Some insurance companies will help with the costs of transportation and overnight stays for doctor’s appointments but many will not. If you have a friend with a child who has to travel often, consider buying a gas card or gift certificate to a hotel near the hospital or doctor they frequent.


  • Money Toward an Account for Therapy Costs

    • While this may not be directly for the parent, easing the financial burden for a family of a child with special needs can have a significant impact. Here are some options.
      • Ask the family to create a PayPal or other similar account so that you and other family or friends can add money throughout the year to help pay for therapy costs.
      • Research kid’s savings accounts at a local bank.



7 Things They Want

Due to the costs associated with having a child with special needs, parents often sacrifice some of the things they want. Take the time to think about something that they might sacrifice so they can provide for their children and gift it to them this year.


  • Memberships or Day Passes

    • Science Museums, Theme Parks, Zoos, etc. – Think about places you love to take your children. Gift a pass that will help them to have fun all year round!


  • Starbucks or Local Coffee Shop Gift Cards

    • This is a no-brainer! Whether it be lack of sleep or stress induced fatigue, give them the gift of the caffeine pick me up.


  • Spa Day

    • A day of renewal! Don’t underestimate even an hour or two of time away to let someone pamper them and make them feel special. And don’t count out the men on your list for this gift!


  • Movie Tickets for the Family

    • Families need time together. Find a local theater offering Sensory Safe movie times and get passes for the whole family. Throw in an extra gift card to cover the cost of drinks and snacks.


  • Monthly Subscription Boxes

    • I am obsessed with these subscription boxes. There are so many options. From clothing to beauty, food to gaming, and grooming to fitness, there is a box for everyone. Here is a great website with some amazing options:
    • Find out what the parents or caregivers are interested in and give them the gift that keeps giving once a month all year long!


  • Support Groups

    • Local organizations may offer support groups for different types of disabilities. Help locate these support groups and find ways to make sure the parents or caregivers can attend.


  • Friendship

    • Lasting friendships are hard to find in general. However, the isolation of having a child with special needs can be overwhelming. Plan a monthly time that you can get together and stick with it! Dinner, coffee, a chat on the couch while kids are napping – whatever you can both squeeze in.

7 Things to Read

Reading can offer many things to a person – knowledge, passion, relaxation, joy. The list could go on. Here are some recommendations for both fiction and non-fiction.



  • Shtum by Jem Lester

    • Ten-year-old Jonah has never spoken. When he and his father, Ben, are forced to move in with Ben’s elderly father, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together. Jonah, blissful in his innocence, becomes the prism through which all the complicated strands of personal identity, family history and misunderstanding are finally untangled.  Shtum is Jem Lester’s debut novel and is based on his experience raising a child with autism.


  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

    • Christopher Boone, the autistic 15-year-old narrator of this revelatory novel, relaxes by groaning and doing math problems in his head, eats red-but not yellow or brown-foods and screams when he is touched. When his neighbor’s poodle is killed and Christopher is falsely accused of the crime, he decides that he will take a page from Sherlock Holmes (one of his favorite characters) and track down the killer.


  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio

    • Now a major motion picture, this novel chronicles ten-year-old Auggie Pullman’s journey from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan.  Born with extreme facial abnormalities, Auggie endures taunting, fear, and misunderstanding from his classmates as he struggles to be seen as just another student.  The story is told from multiple perspectives as Auggie’s community ultimately learns the true meaning of empathy, compassion, and acceptance.



  • Chicken Soup for the Soul: Children with Special Needs: Stories of Love and Understanding for Those Who Care for Children with Disabilities by Jack Canfield

    • Chicken Soup for the Soul books are known for their inspirational and life affirming short stories and this edition is no different.  Parents or caregivers of children with disabilities will find support, reassurance, humor and heart within the pages of this book.


  • The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman

    • Every child has a unique way of feeling loved.  This book, based on the bestselling Five Love Languages teaches parents how to identify their child’s “love language” – how they understand and like to receive love – and how to speak that language to build trust with your child as they flourish and grow.


  • Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

    • Thought leader Dr. Brené Brown argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.  When we choose to dare greatly, the rewards are vast: We feel more loved and are more loving, we feel worthy of that love, we choose our path and commit to it with daily practice, and we live with courage, engagement and a clear sense of purpose.


  • The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida

    • Written by a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, this is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine.   Written with the aid of a special alphabet grid, the book features answers to 58 questions Higashida has been asked about his autism.


If you are worried you won’t know what they would like to read, purchase a gift card from Amazon or Barnes and Noble and print this list so they have some ideas. Also, consider whether the person on your list would prefer to have a physical copy of the book, read on an e-reader, or listen to an audiobook.


Well, there you have it – your 21 ideas for parents and caregivers
of children with special needs. Spend an extra few minutes and
share your love with them during this Christmas season!