©2020 by Theresa Regan

Gift Giving in Autism

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash


There are occasions that gift giving is common -- birthdays, Christmas, graduation, Mother's Day. Many on the autism spectrum may not consider exchanging gifts with others at all. If they do, there may be a reliance on someone else in the household to initiate the idea. "For my mom's birthday, my dad usually takes us to dinner, and we get her a card."


Others on the spectrum follow the general rule of gift giving with precision, but lack the insight and spontaneity the receiver may wish for. For example, a husband may get his wife the same present every year without variation (e.g., flowers and dinner at the same restaurant). He doesn't show awareness of the "now" of her life (what she is interested in now), and he doesn't take note of things she's mentioned casually that could generate gift ideas (e.g., "I've always wanted to try a hot stone massage").


Another variation of gift giving may be the ASD individual who gives gifts that he would like without an understanding that the receiver may have different interests. A young adult may get his mother a book on katana swords because it falls in line with his interests. He lacks the ability to understand that another may not be interested. He fails to tap into the fact that his mother loves gardening.


When working with clients, we sometimes work on giving gifts that match the occasion and the receiver. Typically, the individual needs guidance for this, but this skill can help support relationship improvements.


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