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Best Gifts for Kids with LD and ADHD

SC HolidayFocus on Your Child's Talents
When holiday shopping for kids who have learning disabilities or ADHD, it's important not to focus on their problems. Kids need a break from dealing with their differences, and they need some downtime from school-related things. Try finding gifts that are fun, but that can help in a general way without feeling like (ugh!) another assignment. However, if your child asks for a gift that will help her be more successful in school, such as software or an electronic device, I'd head for the nearest computer store! Read on for other great gift ideas.

Gifts That Keep on Giving
As a parent, you know a lot about your child's learning strengths and needs. So think about gifts that are fun and that showcase his talents, or that strengthen weak skills in a way that's not so obvious.

If your child is good in language arts, books and games that require word skills are great gifts. But if she's a poor speller, a game of Boggle or Spill and Spell is not a good choice. Kids who are great in-line skaters or snowboarders will appreciate gifts that enhance their image or skill level. This gives them a chance to shine more brightly.

There's nothing wrong with giving kids things to help them fit in. All kids, and especially those with special needs, need to have access to the language and culture of their age group. This lets them talk about things that are "in," so they are less likely to be seen as outsiders or "weird." Keep your eyes open when you volunteer at school, or when you carpool or meet your child at the bus stop. You'll see very quickly what's "in" and what's "out."

A Ticket
Worried about your child's friendships (or lack of friendships)? Does your son need to develop better social skills that other kids may have picked up more naturally? Consider giving him an envelope containing two tickets to an event, and a card telling him one of the tickets is for a friend of his choice. One caution: This can backfire if he can't find a friend to go. You don't want him asking everybody he sees in school if they'll go with him. Up front, you may suggest that your child ask a relative or family friend.

An Internet Connection
For kids with LD or ADHD, the gift of an Internet connection (with appropriate limits and kid controls) can be fun and helpful. Many kids with social skill difficulties are learning a lot about social interactions using the relative anonymity of the Internet. Sitting with your child who's exploring the Net is a very good way to learn about her learning style and to help her be more productive. Don't put the computer in your child's room and allow her to go unattended for long periods of time behind closed doors. This is especially important for kids who are eager to make friends or who may not use good judgment.

A Club Membership
A membership in a club or activity group can provide structured opportunities for fun and friendship. Competitive sports will not do much for a "klutzy" kid, but swimming lessons might be just fine. The more unique the activity, the more likely it is that your child will develop some special skill or gain some recognition based on his strengths. For example, a CB radio club, horseback riding, archery, or harp lessons are examples of activities that would give your child status.

A Special Trip
Parents who'd like to form stronger bonds with their kids should consider giving an adventure weekend (Outward Bound, etc.) or a "special" vacation (a day in the city or a week on a dude ranch with Dad). Make sure the trip's not too long and that it's something your child wants to do.

The Gift of Giving
Don't forget to give your kids the chance to do something for someone else. Doing community service — whether volunteering in a food kitchen or working with Habitat for Humanity — can help build a better self-concept. Reporting about this to classmates at school can make a child feel really great. Let your child's teacher know what your child has done, and ask her to provide an opportunity for sharing in class. If verbal presentation skills aren't your child's strong suit, then sharing pictures or a videotape (which she has made) could make it easier to share the experience. Videos and photos also provide a lasting memory of the successful times. These can come in handy when your child gets the "blues."

The holidays can be a special time when families honor individual differences in a positive and fun way. The best activities or devices are those that allow talent to flourish or that let kids have unrestricted fun by avoiding the "bumps" often associated with the special need.

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