Christmas: How to not be a Grinch (and shop for everyone!)
We’ve all had that moment where we open a present and you LIE: ‘Yeah it’s EXACTLY what I wanted!’ when really we know we’ll throw it in the bin two hours alter or shove it to the back of the wardrobe never to be seen again. But being a disabled person receiving inappropriate presents at Christmas can be even more challenging.
I once received a cross-stitch set when I was about eight. A well-intentioned present, but it wasn’t accessible to me because of my vision so my Mum had to do it all for me – which wasn’t so much fun! I think that, whilst it can be difficult for people to buy presents for disabled people, there is nothing to stop you choosing accessible, fun and meaningful presents.
The Guardian has recently written an article explaining why Christmas presents can be a minefield for people with autism or learning disabilities. In the article, a Mum explains this difficulty for her child who has autism: “People often give Sam presents he can’t play with or that he’ll just break… It is so difficult explaining to relatives why something they’ve bought isn’t suitable.” The article suggests possibly getting family to club together to buy one present so that carers can make sure it is something suitable and fun, and the person with autism or learning difficulties doesn’t feel overwhelmed. I think this is a great compromise.
Another example of how Christmas presents can be inappropriate is when it is something specifically tailored to the person and their disability. Although we know that the person giving the present means well, we want to have fun at Christmas and focus on what we can do – not be reminded of how things need to be adapted for us! I once got a large print calculator from someone as a Christmas present and Aidis’s Richard says he used to get large print rulers and protractors. Make sure it’s something FUN, that doesn’t draw attention to the disability as the focal point, but also that it is suitable for the person.
Disability magazine Ouch! explores inappropriate Christmas ideas for disabled people. Television producer Kate Ansell, who has cerebral palsy, was once given a skipping tope by a family friend. Kate says: “I don’t think anyone really reacted, now I think back to it. I was quite pleased with the rope but gutted when I turned out to be rubbish at skipping.’ One Dad contacted Ouch! on Facebook, saying that his daughter had been given a Pet animal for the XBox that uses voice commands – only his daughter cannot talk.
The bottom line is, think about the person and their disability and then tailor the gift to them without the disability being the main focal point of the present. I remember once when I was about six, my Mum bought me a doll that I’d really wanted. Even though I couldn’t see all of the features, it was great because it was something I could play with. I still have the doll somewhere!
If in doubt, ask the person what they would like, or what would make a suitable present. If you want it to be a surprise, maybe ask their relatives, friends or carers to give you some ideas. Above all, remember Christmas is about giving great presents – so think about the person’s specific needs in addition to the person, rather than just the needs themselves and you’re onto a winner! It’s important to get it right as no one wants a miserable Christmas!
Let me know what you think about accessible presents. Have fun Christmas shopping – I know I will!
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