Everything Special Needs Holiday Toolkit

Being a special needs mom, sometimes the holidays have a bit of added stress, don’t they? Between sensory overload and special food items that we need, sometimes it’s just a little item here and there that collectively adds up to holiday stress. But no worries, because what it comes down to is PREPARATION. Right? So here is everything you need to reduce stress in your special needs household so you can more enjoy the holiday season. From shopping organizers to gift suggestions to tips on navigating time with your family…it’s all right here.

Holiday Shopping Organizer: Last year when I counted, I think I had 14 people to purchase holiday gifts for on my son’s IEP team. I don’t think I buy gifts for 14 family members! But my son’s team does a great job, and I think it’s really important to thank them at the holidays. Use this printable shopping organizer so  you can manage and keep track of what gifts you’re buying and your spending budget.

New for 2015: I have another version of the shopping organizer or IEP Team shopping list. It’s still a free printable!

Inexpensive Teacher Gift Ideas: Now that you have your shopping list organized, here are some great gift ideas for teachers.

Toys, Toys and More Toys: Here is my GIGANTIC list of toy recommendations from my son’s BSC. She has dozens and dozens of suggestions and even points out the educational and therapeutic value for each one.










Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Holiday Shopping Deals: Ok, now that you know who you need to buy for, you want the best prices, right? I have partnered with Savings.com again to bring you just that. If there is a sale, discount or promo code to be had…you’ll find it there!

Gift Ideas for Teens and Tweens with Autism and Other Special Needs: In case you missed it when it was first published, here it is. I surveyed some great autism moms and other special needs moms to get their ideas.

Special Needs Gift Guide: If you want to buy special needs themed items, I found some on Amazon.








Stocking Stuffers: Everyone needs stocking stuffer ideas, so once again I asked a bunch of special needs moms about things that their kids like, and these are their responses.

10 Toys Under $10: Much shorter list than above but great if you need last-minute cheap gift ideas.







20 Christmas apps for special needs: Got apps? We do! I compiled a list of 20 fun holiday apps that will have your child working on sequencing, vocab, social stories and more.

Autism Awareness Gift Guide: If you want some special autism awareness items, here are a bunch.









Tips to Rein in Holiday Spending: You don’t want to wake up in January with empty bank accounts and high credit card bills. Read these tips on how to keep better control of your holiday spending.

See page 2 for more holiday ideas.


Stress-free Family Gatherings: The extra activities, parties, school events, family gatherings, extra tasks and expectations…it’s all a bit much. Read these tips to stay balanced, centered and stress free!

Winter Crafts: Winter means extra time indoors, which can mean bored kids! Here is a list of winter crafts that you can do with your child, plus it includes what skills you can work on.









Winter Recipes: From easy biscotti to hearty healthy soups, you’ll find something here you can use.

You can also try your hand at making these DIY Bath Salts and give them as gifts or just relax yourself.






Gift Ideas for the Special Needs Family: I also compiled my own list, with the help from a few moms, of some great and unusual gift ideas for the special needs family. I have a short description of each item, plus what makes it a little extra special for our special needs.

Visiting Santa can be fun. Here is our list of Sensory-friendly Santas, which is updated all the time.





And last but not least…holiday travel. If you are traveling this holiday season, with kids who may or may not have special needs, make sure you read these great tips first. You don’t want to be unprepared and far from home at the holidays.

I hope that this serves as a good and useful resource for you this holiday season! And since it is the season of thanks, I want to thank you for being a reader and follower of my site. Here is what the printable shopping organizer looks like:








Lisa Lightner is a Chester County, PA mom of two. This post was adapted from the blog A Day in Our Shoes, which she co-authors. It provides support, resources and advocacy services for parents of children with special needs.


Categories: MomSpeak