Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gift Quandry

One of the more difficult things for me during the holidays, and apparently for other families I have heard from who have children with significant disabilities, is deciding on gifts for those children. The yearly debate seems to focus on whether gifts should be chronologically age appropriate or developmentally age appropriate. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a good answer and debate this issue constantly myself.

Here’s a scenario presented by one family – the family has a 21year old son, I’ll call him Michael, who has Down Syndrome. Michael lives at home with his family, is in his last year of high school, and doesn’t have much of a social life outside his family members and their friends. Michael adores Mickey Mouse cartoons. His family knows he would be very happy to receive Micky Mouse DVDs as a Christmas gift, but they are reluctant to buy him something that is so chronologically age inappropriate. In past years, they have bought him clothes, DVDs the whole family enjoys, and music CDs to which the whole family would listen. Michael is happy to receive those things, but it wasn’t really what he wanted.

I have the same dilemma with my oldest daughter. Jessica is 17 years old, but cognitively and developmentally is more like 6-7 years old. She loves baby dolls and Barbie dolls. She also likes getting girly clothes as gifts, and she would also like Disney DVD’s. Like Michael’s family, I don’t want to stigmatize her with things her friends and peers would ridicule, but I also would feel bad not giving her a gift that she truly wants.

How have other families handled this issue? What recommendations would you have for families like mine and Michael’s?


Anonymous said...

I started reading your blog everyday after Dave Hingsburger cited it--thanks for sharing your stories.

I'm not a parent, but I've been working with adults with dev. dis. for 20 years and I've always been amazed by "the parents." In a good way! As a professional, I come and go in people's lives, but the parents are in it for the long haul. I have experienced and learned so much from the parents of people I worked with.

Regarding your question, I don't have any special wisdom --just a little story. In the first group home I worked at, a young woman, age 18, moved in with her little girl undershirts and care bears nightgowns. The caring professionals counseled her mom on more age-appropriate clothing--buy her some bras! Ten years later, I was running the young woman's day program and went to a meeting at her home--the caring professional at this meeting said--oh by the way, "Barbie" is so small chested, she doesn't really need regular bras. Can you buy her undershirts or maybe sports bras?

Mom and I looked at each other and tried not to laugh.

My motto--let's not kill people's souls with our philosophies.

mommy~dearest said...

My son's only six, so he still gets away with his fascination without TOO much of a problem (it's Baby Einstein).

I have started to customize things for him though- you can get age-appropriate things personalized with the object (I just got Jaysen a placesetting with the Baby Einstein logo on it), so, maybe a Barbie watch, or something of the sorts?