I really don’t think anybody would get running shoes for a paraplegic, but the gifts on this list can feel just as insensitive to people living with a disability, whether visible or invisible. If you have a person with a chronic illness in your life, avoid offering these tone-deaf presents as a token of your affection (or they may just think you secretly hate them).
1. An Amusement Park Season Pass for Somebody With POTS
Just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy theme parks. However, if that someone has a condition such as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), this is the last thing you should ever consider giving them.
POTS is a condition in which a change from lying down to standing up causes an abnormally large increase in heart rate because the blood remains in the lower half of the body instead of circulating throughout the way it should.
Symptoms include dizziness, blurred vision, increased heart rate, difficulty thinking, nausea, disorientation, extreme fatigue, vomiting, and brain fog.
If somebody already has all of the symptoms of riding on an amusement park ride just by existing, they’re definitely not going to want to get on a roller coaster, and a gift like this can be really disheartening to receive.
2. A Wool Sweater for a Person With Sensitive Skin
Another insensitive gift to avoid giving someone with an invisible illness is a wool sweater (or anything made of wool, honestly). Many people with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome have very sensitive skin and sensory processing issues. Just taking the wool out of the garment box could be enough to cause an allergic or sensitive reaction in the person opening the gift. As much as this person might want to smile and thank you for the thought, a gift like this may make them secretly want to cry.
3. Scented Lotions, Soaps, and Perfumes for Those With Allergies
If you know somebody with any type of allergy (hay fever, gluten intolerance, celiac disease), avoid gifts of scented lotions, soaps, perfumes, and other such products. Many people with autoimmune disease and gastrointestinal disorders have strong and negative reactions to the synthetic chemicals in these products.
Those with autoimmune disease have overactive immune systems, which means that exposure to synthetic chemicals can cause a flare-up of their condition, leading to muscle pain, joint pain, fatigue, post-nasal drip, wheezing, skin rash, and worse.
If you know somebody with an autoimmune disease or allergies, avoid these types of gifts like the plague.
4. Wine-Tasting Classes for a Recovering Alcoholic
Oh, Lord. Here is another really tone-deaf gift for someone with a chronic condition. You wouldn’t think somebody would do this, but it does happen. How do I know? Well, I was the jackass who did something similar to this once, and, a friend of mine of Instagram told me somebody literally did this to her husband!
My mistake was in giving a beer stein to an alcoholic family member. Nice move, Jaime! (In my defense, I was in my early 20s and had not yet been diagnosed as autistic, but still…not one of my finer moments).
When in doubt, avoid the gift of alcohol.
5. Food of Any Kind (No, Seriously)
Ah, food. Everybody loves food, right? Wrong! There are many people who find food gifts to be incredibly uncomfortable and even triggering. For those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease, getting a cookie gift basket is like getting a punch to the gut. (Both figuratively and literally if they accidentally eat one.)
The person with lactose intolerance may smile when they open the cheese platter you got them, but they secretly want to throw it at you. The vegetarian will be offended by your homemade beef jerky, and the person you got the box of fancy mixed nuts for just might drop over dead if they have a peanut allergy.
Also, people with eating disorders can be triggered into deep anxiety and a relapse of their condition if they receive any type of food as a gift.
Just avoid it.
6. Entertainment Gifts Cards for An Agoraphobic
If you know someone who struggles with anxiety, especially fear of leaving the house or traveling, getting an outing gift card (restaurant, movies, etc.) can be very discomforting for the receiver. Even if you think you’re doing the right thing by trying to “coax” them past their comfort zone, this is not your call, and it can actually trigger a relapse and/or deepening of their anxiety.
7. Gifts That Call Attention to the Disability
This may be the last on this list of insensitive gifts to give someone with a disability, but it’s certainly not least. You know those running shoes you would never get for a paraplegic?
Well, it’s just as insensitive to get a jigsaw puzzle for someone with a visual processing disorder, a set of novels for somebody with dyslexia, brain teasers for someone with a learning disability, or a jack-in-the-box for someone with PTSD.
The holiday season is already challenging enough for people living with disabilities due to extra stress, travel, exposure to the elements, and family responsibilities. Please don’t make it more difficult by giving gifts like these.