Netbuddy Christmas Gift Guide
Choosing an appropriate present for someone with a learning disability can be tricky. With the festive season just a few weeks away, now is the time to start preparing.
To give you a helping hand, we've asked some of our Netbuddies to road test some potential gifts for under this year’s tree. Each person or family was asked to try out a product and let us know their thoughts. The items range from clothing and bibs to books and toys, and from little 'uns to grown ups.
We hope our Christmas gift guide helps you find inspiration. For more great Christmas tips & ideas, check out our Christmas tips section.
What Is Love Bombing - book
Reviewed by Wendy, mum to three children with autism
This is a really useful book that you can personalise for your needs. It’s not necessary to sit and read page by page, but instead you can skip to the chapters that suit you and relate to your situation.
There are individual stories that may apply to you, and suggestions of which other parts to read.
There wasn’t really anything I didn’t like about the book. It’s a very practical, useful book to have.
For me, as a mum to three children with autism, I particularly found the chapter on autism and sleep problems very compelling and I could relate to a lot of what was being said.
I would definitely recommend this book for any parent even if you only use it for the stories, there will be something in one of them each one of us can relate to. It’s a really accessible self-help book that can help deal with problems such as temper tantrums, refusing to go to school, sleep problems, hyperactivy, clinging, and shyness.
Where to buy: Love Bombing: Reset Your Child's Emotional Thermostat is published by Karnac Books, £9.99. To order a copy for £7.99, including free UK p&p, go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0330 333 6846. www.lovebombing.info
Netbuddy rating: 4/5
Neils Yard ‘Perfect for someone who Dreams of Sleep’ gift set Reviewed by Mary, whose daughter has Fragile X syndrome.
This is a really nice gift I’d be delighted to receive either for myself or my (grown-up) daughter. We both suffer from lack of sleep so this is a really thoughtful present to help us unwind and relax!
This gift set contains a delicious blend of night time tea with a handy little strainer for easy brewing! There’s a selection of wonderful toiletries too, including a beauty sleep concentrate, calming roll-on remedy and some lovely bath bubbles.
I love the safe ingredients in the products and it’s also 90% organic, which is important to me.
The pack definitely helped me think about sleep time and make the effort to enjoy a bath, cuppa and apply the concentrate. I have to say, my sleep has improved a little and I certainly wake up fresh and hydrated in the morning.
Where to buy: www.nealsyardremedies.com £60.25
Netbuddy rating: 4/5
Two-Handled Cup and Saucer Reviewed by Amy, an adult with thoracic outlet syndrome.
My condition has really affected my grip and arm strength and this makes eating and drinking a challenge. I love the floral design of the two-handled cup and saucer, it looks vintage and sits prettily on my table. It makes a welcome change from some of the other two-handled cups out there, which generally tend to be plastic or child-like. This is good quality and looks great.
The bone china is really lightweight so doesn’t add to my difficulties and I found the two handles easy to hold. Now I can enjoy a cup of tea whenever I want!
Where to buy: http://www.thedisabledshop.com/category/Gift-Ideas/Two-Handled-Cup-and-Saucer £19.45
Netbuddy rating: 4/5
Card Player - Reviewed by Jack, an adult with cerebral palsy.
Playing cards is one of my favourite past-times but I struggle to hold my cards without letting everyone else see my hand! This card holder is the ideal solution, as it keeps my cards in a natural position so I can see while I am playing, and keep my hand away from prying eyes if poker is the game!
It will sit on the table if I don’t want to hold it or am struggling with my grip.
You get a pair so I usually let friends use the other one – they also think it’s a great idea.
For someone like me who passes a lot of time with card games they’re a wonderful investment and well worth the money.
Where to buy: http://www.thedisabledshop.com/category/Gift-Ideas/Card-Player £16
Netbuddy rating: 4/5
Isoflex Stress Ball
Reviewed by Josh, aged 19 who has Aspergers, and Dad Jason.
This Isoflex Stress Ball was the perfect buy for my 19 year old son with Aspergers. He uses it often, especially in crowds when he is trying calm down. It is a great tool to turn to as it keeps busy hands content. It’s very well made and just soft enough yet firm enough to keep his emotions together.
Previously we’ve tried to make a few ourselves, but they do not last. This one is very durable and was great value.
Where to buy: http://compare.ebay.co.uk/like/370652560023?var=lv<yp=AllFixedPriceItemTypes&var=sbar&cbt=y £4
Netbuddy rating: 5/5
Reviewed by 13-year-old George, who has autism, and his mum Jan
This is a really good sensory experience with lots of activities. You can spin the triangular handles to create an optical illusion and make the magnetic spinning wheel race from side to side, play vertically or horizontally and challenge your imagination. A glow in the dark magnetic spinning wheel was included too!
George loves spin tops and has sensory issues and developmental issues combined with issues with both fine and gross motor skills. While we try to incorporate some tools based in occupational therapy in his daily life, it's also nice when they are really fun.
It’s pretty break-proof too – really sturdy. However, it does come with a hefty price tag which is the only thing that could put you off.
Where to buy: http://www.amazon.co.uk/GYROBIX-EXPLORER/dp/B0019I85GI/ref=sr_1_1?s=kids&ie=UTF8&qid=1350394079&sr=1-1 £35
Netbuddy rating: 3/5
Reviewed by Lillie, aged 8 who has developmental coordination disorder, dyslexia and dyspraxia, and mum Rachel.
The bath flutes are good, although the first time we used them we found out that the waterproof music sheets weren't waterproof, so we can no longer use them in the bathroom! Instead, Lillie makes up her own music. Also, the writing on the sheets was too small for a child to follow to make the music. I wouldn't say it strengthens the muscles of the mouth for speech as I have not seen an improvement, however it is good for encouraging blowing and strengthening the mouth muscles that way. It’s good that they are unable to swallow the water in the flute. As a fun bath toy she really likes it.
Where to buy: http://www.kiddimax.co.uk/tub-tunes-water-flutes-p-60.html £9.89
Netbuddy rating: 3/5
Knot Genie hairbrush
Reviewed by Miya, 7 with Downs Syndrome, and mum Rachel
The Knot Genie is a lightweight plastic brush that you hold in the palm of your hand, rather than by a handle. It comes in different colours (ours was green camouflage) and is shaped like a cloud, so your hand fits comfortably around it.
Miya doesn't like having her hair brushed, so at first I let her have a play with it and she did have
a little brush of her own hair! Then I took over and I must admit it does what it claims to do (the packaging states: “even the curliest, most knotted hair practically slips through the unique bristle configuration-gently and painlessly”).
Miya still protested about having her hair brushed, but it took a lot less time than with a conventional brush to get the knots out, so I call that a result!
I found the size of the Knot Genie a bit big, but they also do a Teeny Genie which is smaller. It may seem a bit pricey for a brush, but overall I would definitely recommend this product.
Where to buy: http://sensorysmart.co.uk/ £12.95
Netbuddy rating: 4/5
Reviewed by Eleanor, 6, who has CONDITION and mum Sarah
The Xlopiano was a great hit – it’s nice and chunky and durable, makes a lot of noise and can entertain even the parents. I particularly liked the fact that its durable as Eleanor is quite heavy handed and from a sensory point of view it worked great for her.
The only thing that wasn’t so good were the coloured song cards, they’re a great idea but they are flimsy cardboard and easily bent or damaged. I would like to see the keys a little more responsive as they intermittently don’t work unless specific pressure is placed on the keys.
I think it’s a good gift however I’m not sure that an eight-year-old would get much satisfaction from it, from a special needs point of view it would need to have more buttons, more noise and more options as my daughter in particular can get bored fairly quickly and it needs to keep her attention.
Where to buy: www.elc.co.uk £15
Netbuddy rating: 3/5
Babushka sensory book
Reviewed by five-year-old Alisha who has cerebral palsy and her mum Jackie
Alisha is just starting to learn to read and keeping attention span is really crucial.
The concept of this book and related accessories is absolutely brilliant – it’s great way to engage and keep attention in the story. However, the execution isn’t very good. The characters don’t look anything like the ones in the book and we weren’t sure when to use what.
Also, the price is astronomically high at £45! For that price you’d expect everything at a much higher quality and prompts throughout the book to help you know when to use what item.
Such a shame as we love the idea but the quality and lack of instructions lets the product down.
Where to buy: www.playtoz.co.uk/babushka.html £45
Netbuddy rating: 2/5
Reviewed by Carl, 4 with global learning delay, and mum Angelica.
My son really liked this belt. He liked the picture of the car on the front which in his words made him look cool. Normal belts are too tricky for him to put on or undo on his own. This belt has Velcro which made it possible for him open and close it without any help, giving him independence to get dressed or undressed on his own. The Velcro also means it’s easy to adjust the size of the belt.
The only negative thing about this belt would be the size of the Velcro closing at the front. It probably needs to be quite big to be strong. However, to get the picture at the front you have to start putting the belt through the second loop hole on your trousers unless the loops are big enough to let you pull the plastic part of the belt through it.
I would definitely recommend this kind of belt for other children or adults who need an alternative kind of belt.
Where to buy: easybelts.co.uk From £6
Netbuddy rating: 4/5
Early Learning Centre Lights and Sounds Funky Footprints
Reviewed by Amelia, who is 4 and has non-verbal autism, and mum Louise.
This play and walk sensory toy is really fun and encourages toddling, hopping and counting.
The long plastic mat has child-size footprints and numbers, with lights and a speaker at the end. As the child steps in noises are made and the lights flash.
The mat is a lovely size, is padded and nice and bright but without being too distracting from the aim. It’s easy to fold up and store away in box.
However, the sounds made when stepping on a footprint don’t inform the child that they have stepped on any particular number so can be stepped on randomly therefore not ensuring the child recognises which numbers come after which. The sounds and lights don’t really put on much of a show for the child to notice them.
I would recommend this for a child with the developmental age of approximately 12-18 months for the stimulation side of it and a child of approximately 18-24 months for the learning side of it. It would make a great present and you could use this item in various ways, for example as a turn-taking activity or a sensory activity as cause and effect activity.
Where to buy: www.elc.co.uk £20
Netbuddy Rating: 4/5
Sensory ball pool
Reviewed by 23-month-old Alex who is being assessed for ASD/autism and his mum Alexandra.
The sensory ball pit comes with balls, three different beanbags and a flower mirror and all seem to be very good quality and are visually stimulating.
It comes in a sturdy box which is good for storage when it has to be put away, but I fund that the sticks used to strengthen the sides when in use were too easy to be removed by inquisitive little fingers.
I find this a very suitable Christmas present as it includes a lot of things like the hidden peep holes were you can post the balls through - this had my little boy in fits of giggles. It also has mesh sides to play peek a boo when they lay down in the pool.
So all in all a very good present which will give hours of fun for both the adults and the kids alike.
Good value and a good make.
Where to buy: http://www.mothercare.com/ £25
Dentrust three-sided toothbrush
Reviewed by foster carer Kathy and Adam, a 7 year old with Cerebral Palsy.
The Dentrust is a three-sided toothbrush, which cleans all sides of the teeth at the same time. Adam helped me to test this as he needs full support with cleaning his teeth. We were a bit unsure at first, but once we got used to the Dentrust, it’s great!
It was a bit fiddly to start with – pulling the brushes apart to slot it on to the teeth - but with a bit of practice it’s really quick and easy. You don’t have to think about getting the angle right, or worry about catching gums with the brush. When Adam wriggled about the brush stayed on his teeth and we could easily carry on brushing. The handle is long – really easy to reach the back teeth - and quite thin, which is great as we could continue brushing even when his mouth was closed.
You can clean all the teeth very quickly so it’s ideal for people who don’t like having their teeth cleaned. It could also be great if you had difficulties with co-ordination, as once it is on the teeth it stays in position.
Adam took a while to get used to the triple brush sensation, but once he did he was quite happy. However it could take people with sensory issues longer to get used to, and it may not be for everyone. A Dentrust could be a good practical present, and it definitely makes teeth cleaning easier for us.
Where to buy: http://sensorysmart.co.uk/ £2.95
Reviewed by Natalie aged 7 with a severe learning disability and visual impairment.
This is a range of clothing designed especially for children who are extra-sensitive to the texture and feel of clothing. All the items are made with soft materials, and small details like flat seams, printed labels and encased waistbands have been developed to make the clothing as comfortable as possible.
We tested a party dress made of incredibly soft cotton, which feels really nice and smooth. It has a wide neck and sleeves, so it was really easy to put on. The seams are really flat and smooth, and the dress didn’t crease when she wore it while sitting in her wheelchair, so I think it was fairly comfortable. Soft Clothing also make vests and socks, which could be ideal for wearing under orthotics.
The dress goes a darker colour when it’s wet, so it wouldn’t be ideal for children who dribble, but it dried fairly quickly and washes well. It doesn’t look particularly like special clothing, just a nice pretty item. I like the fact it’s quite plain, as some children might find lots of patterns and details hard to cope with.
Overall, I think it’s a really good idea and Soft Clothing would definitely be worth a try for children who don’t like the feel of clothing.
Where to buy: http://shop.sensory-smart.com/soft-clothing-8-c.asp From £7.50
Bibs by Beauty and the Bib
Reviewed by Hugh, two-and-a-half with ‘Syndrome without a name’ (SWAN) and mum Emma.
Hugh and I tried out two bibs from Beauty and the Bib - a large triangular navy bib and a large green and red bib that looked like a giant strawberry. The bibs were well made, soft and very absorbent, but although they are aimed at ‘keeping dribblers dry’, I don’t think they would be really appropriate for day-to-day use due to the sheer size of them. Hugh is average size and build for his age but the bibs absolutely swamped him. They really stood out and drew attention to the fact he was wearing a bib, which I don’t want to do - I would rather have something that complimented his clothes and looked like a trendy fashion accessory. I felt they were more appropriate at feeding times as they protected such a huge area but this also proved problematic as the navy one bunched up around his face, getting in the way and the strawberry one left a huge gap around his neck area where food could drop. The positioning of the Velcro meant that I couldn’t adjust it to make it any tighter.
They both washed and tumble dried well but overall I wouldn’t recommend them.
Where to buy: www.beautyandthebib.com/ £8