Most autism-related websites focus on kids. But autistic kids grow up into autistic adults. So if that cute little 7-year-old is now a 27-year-old, what do you do for their birthday? Here are some great gifts for autistic adults and teens.
Before we dive in here, I want to mention that these ideas aren’t just from non-autistic people. In fact, there’s an autistic young adult in my family. They go by “Red” online.
Red has checked and approved everything written here. They also went through my bedroom and picked out items they think would make good gifts. (They don’t want to share their things on the internet, so they used mine.)
Here are some great gifts Red chose:
Let’s talk about these choices and some other good ideas.
Fidget Toys and Jewelry
I have lots of necklaces. Red picked two: ones with dangly chains on the end. I like to fidget, so I play with them a lot.
If you want to pick the best fidget item, then think about how the autistic person fidgets. What senses are involved? Which habits calm them?
Touch: If they do lots of small hand gestures, then try beanbags, magnetic fidget balls, poppers, and more. This may also help someone who picks their skin. If they like squishy things, then try stress balls, squishy toys (like Squishimals), and water beads.
Eyes: If they like to look at lights, then look for light-up things. Try lava/bubble lamps, flashlights, glitter jars, mini fans, and other things that sparkle and move.
Ears: Try noisy toys for a vocal stimmer. Maybe they would like rain sticks, beanbags, or music players.
Mouth: Try different flavors of chewing gum, sugar-free candies, or chewy jewelry.
Why did Red put shells and rocks in the photo? They said it wasn’t only aesthetic.
Red collects several types of things. Sometimes, they sit down with their items and admire each one. It might seem odd, but Red likes it, and that’s what counts.
Many autistic people like to collect things. Some of these collections feature traditional items like baseball cards or stamps. But other autistic people collect different things: rocks, string, stickers, or whatever they like having.
Their collections can inspire your gifts.
If you want to add an item to their collection:
- Make sure they don’t already have it.
- Check that someone else isn’t giving them the same gift.
- Make it a good one!
Also, you can get something related to the collection. For example, they might like a shirt or book related to the subject.
Special Interest Gifts
Most autistic people have “special interests:” intense interests in a certain area. These interests help them relieve stress and enjoy life. It might seem odd to others, but it makes them happy.
Online, Red doesn’t want to share all their interests for privacy reasons. But I can say they do like rocks. That’s why they put rocks in the picture.
Of course, you might not want to give rocks as presents. (Or hey, maybe you do?) Whatever your loved one likes, it can be a great gift.
Think of gifts that involve this interest. That might be:
- Books about it
- Stickers about it
- Shirts with slogans
- Music involving it
And if the shirts idea interests you, keep reading! We’re talking about that next.
Fun, Sensory-Friendly Clothes
I love fun shirts. As you saw, I have a cat shirt and a Baby Yoda shirt. I also have a corgi shirt, a neurodiversity shirt, and more. Fun shirts make great gifts for most people.
If you want to pick out clothes, here is what you need to think about.
- What is their size? Also, a too-large shirt can be worn but a too-small shirt can’t.
- Is it sensory-friendly? If it’s mostly or 100% cotton, then it’s probably good.
- Does it seem to be their style?
- Do they like this type of clothes? For example, if they only are wearing modest clothes on social media, then maybe they’re too shy for a revealing dress.
Just like if you’re picking clothes for someone with Down syndrome, make sure it’s easy to get on and off too.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the many great t-shirts available online. For example, you can find great shirts on RedBubble, including ones by autistic artists.
I also make things on RedBubble! If you’d like to explore some cute designs for shirts, stickers, and more, check out my shop. I’d like to think my designs are great gifts for autistic adults or just anyone.
Logic Puzzles and Games
Many autistic people are great at “systems thinking.” A good logic game can help them grow this skill.
Red set out one of my Rubik’s cubes. They’re hard at first, but with the proper manual, they eventually become easy and relaxing.
Let me nerd out for a moment…
A good Rubik’s cube:
- Is stickerless (so they don’t wear off)
- Has a more rounded shape in the center pieces (so it’s easier to turn)
- Comes with a quality manual (like the “secret tutorial for magic cubes”)
Give a 2×2, 3×3, or pyraminx to a beginner. Someone more advanced might like a 4×4, mirror cube, or megaminx. But skip the ivy cube and windmill cube. The ivy cube looks cool but its pieces stick, so it’s not much fun. And there aren’t many good guides on the windmill cube.
If they are afraid they won’t be able to solve their 3×3, then tell them there are apps for that. I was able to reset my 3×3 this way when I was still learning. They can also start off by just trying to solve one side.
And Rubik’s cubes aren’t the only good ones!
I used to like playing a game called “Rush Hour” when I was a kid. The puzzle game had you set up toy cars. You had to move them to make the red car escape the traffic jam. I spent a long time solving those puzzles. Many autistic people would probably like that too.
All kinds of puzzle games can interest autistic people. Look at different options and see what catches your eye.
Fancy Sensory Stuff
Calming sensory items can make life easier for autistic people. If you have a bigger budget, then you may opt for one of these.
- Weighted blanket
- Noise-canceling headphones
- Pressure vest
- Sensory socks
- Backyard swing (able to hold an adult’s weight)
However, do your research first. If you’re spending more money, then you want to spend it well. Before buying, read reviews carefully.
Also, check with the person’s family to see if there’s a need for this item. For example, if they already have a weighted blanket, then they might not need another.
More Great Gifts for Autistic Adults
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Autistic adults are diverse, so they’ll have different interests, and different things can be great gifts.
Autistic people may also enjoy:
- Good books or movies
- Video games
- Music albums
- Money (to pick their own thing)
Don’t worry too much about what is “normal” or “expected.” Most autistic people don’t care too much about social norms. They just want something they can enjoy. And if it makes them think of you, that’s a nice bonus. There are so many things you can choose.
Above all, make it from the heart. A blog can help with gift ideas. But you’re the one who knows them. Just do your best and give a gift with love.
What are the best gifts you’ve ever gotten? If you know an autistic person, which gifts do they love the most?