Parents of children with clothing-related sensory issues face an additional challenge every morning – that of getting their child to put on the fabulous clothes they have laid out for them. Child sensory issues is a boon for both the child and the harried parents. Here is everything you need to know about this lifesaver that can spare you many heartaches and free your child from genuine physical pain.
What does it mean for a child to have sensory issues with clothing?
First things first, how do you differentiate between a simple tantrum and a sensory issue with clothing?
Some children may simply not like the clothes you have chosen for them. Some may have an issue with it being uncomfortable for some reason – too tight, too flowy, or too starchy.
On the other hand, children with sensory issues experience a genuine sensation of pain or acute discomfort with certain clothes. They are not reacting to anything else – it is merely the clothes. An innocent-looking seam, an innocuous tag, or even certain textures can all cause them to feel pain. So, should you be worried?
Not all sensitivity is the same.
In most cases, a sensory issue with clothing is something manageable. However, the children will outgrow them as they learn to deal with the sensations that cause them discomfort. In some cases, where the sensory issues impact the child's ability to function normally in their daily lives, you may have to have your child tested for Sensory Processing Disorder (SPO) or diagnoses like Autism or ADHD.
In such cases, experts think sensory issues may have their roots in some other condition the child may be suffering from.
Moreover, it is essential to note that many cases of sensitivity to clothing may come with no diagnoses at all. Sensory sensitivity to clothing is related to our sense of touch or tactile feel.
Some children experience the sensation of touch more acutely than others. All the stimulation coming from offending clothing on the skin can overwhelm their focus to the end of tears and tantrums.
In many instances, however, clothes specially designed for kids with sensory issues are the lifeline you have been looking for.
How Early Can You Figure Out If Your Child has a Sensitivity Issue?
It is often during the toddler stage that parents begin suspecting that their child has an issue with sensory processing. It is also the time the toddler learns to express their feelings about everything around them.
What Are the Signs and How Do you Deal with Them?
Sensory issues can impact any of the five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch. With specific regard to clothing sensitivity, here are some of the tell-tale signs and what you can do about them:
1. Fidgeting with clothes
Children with sensory issues tend to fidget with clothes that are causing them discomfort or pain. The most common culprits are seams and tags. Even the texture of the fabric can be irritating for some.
Moreover, remember that not all kids display the same kind of sensitivity. You will have to focus on what makes explicitly your child act up and eliminate those from their clothing.
2. Refusing help
The more a child thinks you will force them to wear something they are not ready to wear, the more resistance you will face when offering to help them. Hence, the solution is to empathize.
Let them know that you understand what they feel. Also, reassure them that you will not force them to wear something they don't want to.
3. Mood Swings
When the season changes, and it is time to wear something they have not worn for a while, sensitive children may display anxiety and resistance. Hence, it would be a good idea to start preparing them in advance for such situations.
Leave the clothes out well before you will need to start using them. Let them touch and feel and even try them on in no-pressure cases. It will equip them better to face the wardrobe change when it becomes essential.
4. Dressing inappropriately for the weather
For a child with clothing sensitivity, the clothes' feel is more important than shielding themselves from the weather, which is why they may feel magnificent wearing shorts in winter. Or a pair of gym tights to the mall. Therefore, clothes for kids with sensory issues need to incorporate the fit and fabrics that most put them at ease in any weather.
5. Crying or tantrums
The most important thing here is to accept that what the child feels is very real – the pain, the discomfort, all of it. Knowing that they have a genuine physical reaction to the clothes will help you process why their responses sometimes seem extreme.
Do not question their feelings. Do not try to tell them to 'ignore it' or that 'it's all in your head.' You will only face higher levels of tears and agitation.
6. Difficulty in concentrating
When sensory issues related to clothing impact the child's day-to-day life, you may need to get help from a professional to help them deal with these feelings. While child sensory issues clothing may help with most cases, in some instances where the sensitivity linkage is to other diagnoses, you may need more tools to manage their sensitivity.
If you notice a pattern of any of these kinds of behavior, it is time to accept that your child has sensitivity issues. The way out is stocking up on clothing for child with sensory issues.
What Should You Look for in Clothes for Kids with Sensory Issues?
1. Soft and natural fabrics
Though specific sensitivity is different for each child, stiff and starchy fabrics are a common cause of distress. Makers of clothing for children with sensory issues give great importance to the feel of the material. Moreover, these clothes, made from 100% natural fabrics, are soft and smooth, as synthetic fabrics can cause an uncomfortable sensation.
2. Avoid tags and seams
Many apparel makers now offer choices for children with sensory issues by avoiding tags and seams. Even decorative elements on the outside can leave the inside of the fabric feeling stiff or starchy, so it is better to go for clothes without embroidery or embellishments.
3. Avoid tricky fasteners
Children with sensory issues may have a problem in dealing with complicated or fussy buttons and zippers. They may find it easier to have Velcro fasteners or even drawstrings.
4. Pre-used or pre-washed clothes
While the look and feel of new clothes may be a major attraction for most kids, children with sensory issues may be more comfortable with clothes that have been softened by use and multiple washes. It may not be a bad idea to give them hand-me-downs or clothes sourced from second-hand stores.
If buying new, put them in with your laundry for a couple of washes. This might make it easier for the child to get used to the feel of the fabric.
5. Clothes that don't easily bunch up
Snug and well-fitted socks. Clothes that don't easily slip down the shoulders or bunch up at the waist. These are important checks when you are shopping for clothes for a child with sensory issues.
The feel of bunched up material can aggravate their sensitivity. For the same reason, avoid net linings in innerwear as this creates a whole new sensation that the child has to deal with.
6. Take the child along when shopping for them
Children love to be given the freedom to choose what they like. They will also be more willing to give the clothes they have picked out for themselves a second chance.
They may have a more critical eye for potential problem areas in the clothes you are picking out for them. Eliminating that early one will leave you with better options the child is comfortable with.
Here are some other helpful hints for parents looking for clothing for a child with sensory issues:
- Chewable neoprene pulls on zippers so that the child can seek oral sensory comfort.
- An inside pocket with a built-in fidget for children who desire to calm themselves through fidgeting.
- Look for thoughtful additions like flat seams, multiple openings including back and sides to make dressing easier, and features like zip-off sleeves.
- If you find a style that the child loves and is comfortable with, don't hesitate to buy several pieces of it. Choose different colors if available and also buy the same option in the next one or two sizes.
How Important is Style in Clothes for Children with Sensory Issues?
Some children with sensory issues only need the assurance of dressing up in something they are comfortable with. But others are also style-conscious. For the latter sort, look for apparel makers that cater to this category without compromising on style.
What Fit is Best in Child Sensory Issues Clothing?
Many children who have clothes sensitivity show a preference for tight fits. Some, on the other hand, like to keep it as loose as possible. This preference is specific to the child.
Once you have identified their choice, be sure to buy them exactly what they want. Also, the fit can often play an essential role in making them feel at ease.
Some additional tips for parents to help their children with clothing sensitivity
- Present them with options to choose from and let them decide.
- Give them a time frame – 'this is only for 2 hours'. It helps them adopt a more positive attitude to the clothes.
- Don't fret too much about what they choose to wear. As long as they are comfortable, wearing something that looks a little outlandish or dated may be a compromise worth making.
- Be relaxed about clothing rules. If they want to wear the same clothes for longer or continue wearing them after they have outgrown them, consider whether it is really worth trying to talk them out of it. If it is just for relaxed occasions at home, why not just let the child be? Lay down the rules that are non-negotiable – like being suitably dressed for guests or at the dinner table – but otherwise, give them space to do their own thing. Having some leeway at home make also makes them more amenable to dressing rules for school or other public places.
- Encourage them to moisturize their skin as sensitivity may be heightened on dry skin. A fragrance-free hypo-allergenic moisturizer may work best. Help them desensitize with some deep pressure or vibration on the skin before moisturizing.
- When washing the clothes of children with sensory issues, be sure to use a detergent they can tolerate. Avoid softeners if it alters the texture that they are comfortable with.
- Use sensory bins. The opportunity to experience and get used to different textures in a stress-free environment helps children build up a greater tolerance to clothes.
- Always factor in additional time for the child to get dressed.
- For many children with sensory issues, a tight hug is sometimes useful in helping them calm down. Replicating this feeling with tight clothes is another technique that many parents find helpful, so compression clothing or weighted clothing is often a feature of clothes meant for children with sensory issues.
Listen. Understand. Empathize. These are the three things you can do to help your child with sensory issues.Child sensory issues of clothing come only fourth.
Let your child know you are with them as they navigate this confusing - and often painful – process. Let them know you are in it together!
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