Updated: Apr 6, 2022
Regardless of who you are, you have at least once felt the morning blues when attempting to get out of bed and start your day. You may have the perfect amount of light entering into your room, or a well-layered assortment of blankets on top of you. The thought of trying to replicate that same amount of comfort within the clothing you’ll go about your day in is not quite a straightforward dilemma to resolve.
You may have a particularly sunny office, or you have to enter into a chilly subway platform to get to school. These are considerations that just about everyone takes into consideration when they set off into the day, but there are plenty more for those with sensory issues, particularly children with these issues. It is not always easy to detect when your child is having issues with their clothing.
Let’s face it – sometimes we keep our frustrations to ourselves. For children with sensory issues, aggravation can grow exponentially and lead to anger expression that could be avoided through identifying the telling signs that they are uncomfortable.
The following concerns likely arise: What are the signs, and how can I help my child remain as comfy as they were in bed throughout their day?
First, it would be relevant to realize just what could cause these sensory issues. Individuals that suffer from Autism, an array of Sensory Processing Disabilities, ADHD, anxiety, and many more may likely experience heightened discomfort when it comes to certain clothing items.
Common accommodations for those that have these sensory issues include:
A lack of agitating labels and seams
Closure consideration: buttons, zippers, pull-overs, magnets, Velcro (What works best?)
Added layering/weight/compression for nervous system calming
These are simply some of the most common, but like every other aspect of a child’s life, each one will have specific needs based on their own feelings. How do you identify that your child with sensory issues is having trouble with their clothing? There are plenty of tell-tale signs to look out for, which include:
Fidgeting/tugging/scratching at the lining of clothing
Resisting assistance with typically-accepted tasks
Mood changes within changing seasons
Dressing inappropriately for certain weather
Agitation, even meltdowns
Concentration difficulties/general fidgeting
If you notice any of these, take inventory of your child’s current collection of clothing. If you commonly notice that your child is fidgeting with the lining of clothing, or they seem to act up while wearing particular articles of clothing, look to see if they include any of the listed agitators above. Agitators like tags and weight may seem like minor annoyances for those without sensory issues.
Take the weight of clothing as an example: those without sensory issues typically only consider the weight of their clothing in terms of the temperatures they’ll be exposing themselves to. For a child with sensory issues, clothing that includes added weight often provides them with a sense of comfort.
This feeling results in a release of uplifting hormones like serotonin and dopamine into the child’s bloodstream, which assists in the slowing of involuntary bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and the flow of the stress hormone cortisol – all things that commonly lead to aggravation among children with any of the aforementioned conditions. Before you go about throwing out articles of your child’s clothing, sit down with them and discuss what feels good and what doesn’t, and what some of their favorite pieces of clothing are.
This will allow you to realize which of the agitators are the most bothersome for your child, as well as identifying some styles of clothing that they enjoy. While purchasing clothing for children with sensory issues is a process full of trial and error, you’ll have key insights that will make actual dressing process go far more smoothly.
Having a solid wardrobe of clothing options for all occasions and weather conditions is only half of the battle. If these clothing items are new, they may want you to help them get used to getting in and out of them, and discussing what about them makes them feel good. If they have that accommodation expressed to them, they will likely be able to relate their lack of agitation to it.
Don’t be afraid to show your excitement around these articles of clothing: if they feel comfortable, your child will likely react with similar positivity. In terms of the actual process of dressing for the day, consider these steps when figuring out what works best for your own child:
Organize and collect options: You will want to make sure to provide your child with sensory issues with plenty of possibilities. If you have already identified some of their particular sensory issues, then lay out options for them to choose between themselves. You want them to be comfortable, but you also want to provide the platform to express themselves.
Prepare your child for getting into clothing: There are ways in which you can prime your child to getting into an outfit for them to wear throughout their day. Initiate a short, fun activity (e.g. wheel barrel walking, jumping games, etc.) or joint compressions, massages, etc. to warm up their muscles and help them to relax into their clothing. If possible, administer a firm, quick rub-down to stimulate your child’s skin to prepare your child to get dressed.
Pay attention to the forecast: Be sure to consider the longevity of your child’s outfit. If you are dressing for the winter, be sure to moisturize their skin to avoid agitation from dry skin. In the summer, be sure to work to find a sunscreen that they can tolerate and will protect them from the bother that is a sunburn. When all else fails, always consider the benefits of layering clothing.
Take your time: You may have all the right articles of clothing for your child’s individual needs, but be sure to pay attention to clothing folds and bunching that may occur within the dressing process – these can be just as agitating as a bulbous seam or a zipper on the neck.
Develop a routine: Familiarity is one of the most important considerations to make with children with disabilities. Be sure to be an active participant in processes like getting dressed. Smile, talk things through, and be patient – it will hopefully provide your child with the security they need to promote a positive day.
Adapt: Like we said previously – comfort in clothing will not happen overnight. Be sure to make this process an open and collaborative one. If things are not working, try something new.
Combating a child’s sensory sensitivity is crucial to their development. If they are worrying about their clothing all day, they will not be able to participate in other enriching growth opportunities.
Each child will respond differently to different products, which is why we have worked alongside those with sensory sensitivities to develop plenty of accommodating clothing for your child.
We encourage you to reach out to us and let us know whether or not something works for your child – we would love to know what new help we could provide through a new accommodation to make your child feel safe