No matter the occasion, chances are you’ll eventually be celebrating or surprising a neurodivergent person in your life with a gift or a present. Maybe it’s their birthday, or the December holidays that are fast approaching. To help out, your friends at Positive Development are curating a list of our favorite neurodiversity-friendly products, fidgets, and conversation-starters.
We have no affiliation with the brands or creators, just an affinity and passion for seeing neurodivergent joy. Members of our team put on their creative, festive thinking caps and brainstormed some things that we, our family members, friends, and clients all love. Whenever possible, we want to recommend and uplift autistic creators and entrepreneurs to support small businesses and help support autistic employment.
Of course, your mileage may vary, and you know the neurodivergent people in your life better than anyone. Maybe there is a specific texture or sensory profile that person has, or an intensely focused passion or interest that may suit them better.
Books should be ‘windows’ and ‘mirrors.’ Windows let us see into the lives of others, and mirrors let us see ourselves. These books help to provide more windows and mirrors for everyone!”
Full disclosure: I contributed an original essay and was the original cover art illustrator for the first edition, What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew. But this new edition is more inclusive, and features the best of advice from autistic people who defy the stereotypes and are gender-diverse. Chock full of wisdom from women, nonbinary, transgender, and queer autistic people, this anthology is a must, especially for parents of newly discovered autistic kids. - Haley Moss
“100 percent of your money goes to finding a cure for causes for blindness. As explained by the brothers/owners, they put their trust into others always and they only focus on their heightened senses of textures when choosing items. Excellent reviews regarding material quality. The gift is a total surprise to the buyer.”
Unlearn Your Ableism Hoodie
“It’s a sensory-friendly material and comes from neurodivergent creators! I also love how educational it is for a hoodie and gives us a great call to action”
More cool disability pride gear!
“Very calming tones! great for regulation and is in lots of great music!
“Calming, used with deep breathing activities, movement activity, visual activity, back and forth engagement by rolling it to each other.”
“Tents are great for sooo many reasons! Imaginative play, sensory break, and a space that’s just for them. This is a spaceship example (that includes a space projector), but there are a ton of themed tents out there that may be fun to choose from based on interest.”
“Cause and effect toy - pour water in one area and watch it spin through gears and tubes to come out somewhere else. Boosts fine motor skills and independent play”
“Better than a Slinky! Mesmerizing sensory experience and a great conversation starter”
"Helps kids feel powerful when they make a flower appear! Easy to use andfun. (also works on cause/effect)"
"Brings holiday fun to life! Super fun while working on motor planning, visual-spatial skills, coordination, and so much more!"
"Really great for cause and effort and allows stimulating yet decluttered engagement. Note: Can buy from A LOT of different locations"
"Promotes spatial awareness. I've offered this option for movement breaks and to go along in obstacle courses. The kids really love it and they look like little starfishes running around!"
"Lots of different types. Above links to just one example. Fosters cause-and-effect/intentionality, visual interest, and visual tracking. A spinning top can be used to foster shared attention, shared timing through use of moment of anticipation, i.e., “ready, set, go!” or “1, 2, 3. go!” and reciprocal play."
"Foster cause-and-effect/intentionality, joint attention when playing with another person, eye-foot and eye-hand coordination, and gradation of force. They are fun for people of all ages. These work best outside."
Tactile Stepping Stones
"Foster dynamic balance, body awareness, and motor planning in the placementvof them, as well as activates the tactile, proprioceptive, vestibular, and visual sensory systems. Stepping stones can be used in small spaces as well as part of a larger obstacle course."
Fidgets and Sensory Aids
“This chair was by far the favorite sensory sitting option I had in my classroom”
“For the kid who LOVES to swing. I know so many families where this is a daily toy even after years of owning it. There are different options for accessories. Fits most standard door frames!”
"Who doesn’t love a swing or hammock? Relax while meeting sensory needs!Also local [Florida] company!"
“Sensory friendly and a stress reliever (my kids LOVE them!)
“Sensory friendly, stress relieving, satisfying, can be parlayed into a game. Appeals to all ages. Great stocking stuffer.”
“When I was young, I had an affinity for anything stretchy or gooey. This putty was a winner in my book, and not only helped me concentrate, but also helped me to get my mind off of things I didn't want to concentrate on.”
"Enjoy tactile sensation while releasing inner creativity!"
“This features sensory exploration, soothing, and exploration of transitions regarding sensory input within the same space with significant and controllable intensity along with imaginative play “adventures!”
“For when you want the feel of a weighted blanket without overheating! There is always a cold side of the blanket. They have non-cooling options and kid-sized options too!”
“Can help focus and calm and easy enough to carry anywhere (school, car, airplane, etc.)”
"Proprioceptiveinput is like falling asleep in a hug"
"This has become a popular comfort object for many of our clients. It is heavy, soft, squishy, and cute! It is helpful for reducing anxiety, providing comfort, and engaging your child in pretend play."
“Both stimulates and massages the body.”
“Lap pad with 3 activities.”
"Check Amazon as there is a large price range!"
"Helps kids seek vestibular input by spinning themselves (and proprioceptive input if they use their feet/hands as a kickoff to get the chair moving). The hood lets kids quickly get a sense of privacy and remove any over-stimulating environments."
"Helps children and adults with learning breath work. Gives visual and motor movement allowing for the practice of inhalation and exhalation. Also, a super fun game of toss!"