Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Autism Moms and Autistic Moms
There are two kinds of moms in our community: autism moms and autistic moms. An autism mom is a non-autistic mother of one or more autistic children; an autistic mom is an autistic mother of one or more kids who may or may not be on the spectrum. Autism moms get a bad rap sometimes, based on stories of those parents who make their autistic child’s struggles all about themselves. Autistic moms, on the other hand, often feel like they’re not good parents or even face criticism from others because of their challenges. Personally, I think both autism moms and autistic moms want the best for their kids and do their best for their families, and both deserve to be honored for that. So for this Mother’s Day, here are my best gift ideas for both autism moms and autistic moms
For Autism Moms:
It can’t be denied that being the parent of an autistic child is life-changing and easily becomes part of your identity. I think that’s why nearly all autism moms get into advocacy to some degree, even if it’s just a car magnet. Everybody likes to show off who they are or what their life is about, after all. Since Autism Speaks isn’t the best group to support, try these ribbon magnets and bracelets from the Autism Society of America, or the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s CafePress shop, where you can get several designs on tons of different products.
Massage or spa day
Autism moms devote a ton of time and energy to their kids. When they’re not meeting with teachers or school officials about their kids’ rights and accommodations, they run kids back and forth to school, various therapies, and any extracurricular activities. These moms often have NT kids as well, who have their own schedules to keep up with. Any autism mom could definitely use a day of pampering just for her. If she just needs some downtime, book her an hour (or longer) massage. Does she need more of that more often? Maybe a massage subscription is in order! If the autism mom in your life has spent the last year focused on everyone but herself and now feels a little frumpy and ragged, go for the full spa day treatment with a facial, mani-pedi, and anything else that will make her feel special and pretty again.
Books by autistic authors
The best thing any autism mom can do for their autistic child is to learn as much as possible about their experience. This can be really hard since we’re not great at communicating things in the first place and as children we lack the vocabulary to express it. But there are lots of books written by autistic people that explain their experience in their own words, and they can be a great help to parents’ understanding. Some of the most well-known are Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison, Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin, Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate by Cynthia Kim, and Pretending to Be Normal by Liane Holliday Willey. These and any other books by autistic authors will help an autism mom understand and advocate for her child, plus give her something to do while she’s sitting in the waiting room during all those therapies and classes.
For Autistic Moms:
Anything related to her special interests
An autistic mom is bound to have a few special interests – we all have those things we obsess over. Something related to her special interest is a great gift idea because it shows that you know her, understand her, and love and accept her as she is. If she has a favorite music artist or book series, get her the latest release before she gets it for herself. Add something new to her collection, whether that’s Deadpools or My Little Ponies or classic movie musicals. What more could any mother want?
Does the autistic mom in your life love fidgeting, chewing, or other forms of stimming? Most of us have some stims that we use to keep us calm or give us extra sensory input. There are tons of options for stim tools, depending on what she likes most. For a mom who always has to do something with her hands, you might choose jewelry, squishies, or other fidgets. If the autistic mom in your life is a chewer, specially made chewy stims are a great choice. An autistic mom who’s soothed by weight or pressure might like a weighted blanket or one of these weighted tactile stims. If she needs something inconspicuous for work, check out these ideas for safe-for-work stimming.
A favorite experience
An autistic mom probably has a few things that she really loves to do but maybe doesn’t indulge in very often. Perhaps she loves horses – take her for a ride! If she perseverates on animals or fish, a leisurely trip through a local zoo or aquarium could be a lot of fun for her. A sensory or children’s science museum might be a great experience for an autistic mom to enjoy without anyone calling her “childish” for it. Other ideas might be a day at a comic store or a family game night (board or video games).
For All Moms:
Fruit arrangements are really cool, lovely to look at, and a great clutter-free gift to boot. A healthier choice than chocolates (although there are chocolate dipped options that are really tasty!), fruit tends to appeal to everyone and most arrangements are big enough to be shared with the family if Mom chooses. Double check on any food allergies or texture issues first so you can be sure to order something your mom will love!
Day of whims
This is kind of traditional – a full day of whatever Mom wants – but with a slight twist. For an autistic mom, a day of quiet downtime where she can just do her own thing all day without responsibilities might be the greatest thing ever. An autism mom might want something similar, just a day off. Society tends to frown on this as a Mother’s Day activity out of some weird logic that says wanting a day away from your family makes you a bad mother. I suggest letting that dumb logic go and let Mom do what she wants for the one day. If she chooses to spend all day with the family, great! If she wants to spend part of the day with the kids and part of it alone, also great! If she wants a day to herself, let someone else take the kids and bring home dinner. Whatever Mom wants is ok!
Favorite meal or treat
A more traditional activity that will satisfy NT family members who might insist on “normal” Mother’s Day celebrations is going out to eat. Brunch is the conventional meal for Mother’s Day, but if your mom would prefer a steak dinner or sushi, go for that! An autistic mom will love going to her favorite restaurant for her favorite dish on top of not having to cook for the day, and an autism mom will appreciate being waited on without having to wash the dishes later. If a meal is too much or just not what she wants, there’s always the option of going out for ice cream, or to a bakery for pastries, or whatever treat the mom in your life likes best!
What would be your perfect Mother’s Day gift? Do you ever feel like you’d really like something that people would consider “weird”, and therefore don’t ask for it? Any other gift ideas I missed?