My Child Has Clothing Sensitivity: What Do I Do?

baby laying onesie
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As parents of a child with clothing sensitivity, it can often be frustrating and overwhelming when it comes to the routine task of dressing up your child.

This condition entails a sensitivity issue that children face when it comes to wearing clothes. Generally, clothing sensitivity can be seen in little ones when they have tactile defensiveness.

The term ‘tactile’ means the sense of touch, and ‘defensiveness’ means the sense of having resistance to stimuli.

However, clothing sensory issues are common and there is nothing to panic about if your child has the same. Indeed, the issue of sensitivity towards wearing clothes is very real. The clothes they wear can be irritating to their tender skin. Therefore, it is important to bear certain points in mind while choosing clothes for your little one.

Mother dressing child in scarf

How to Identify Clothing Sensitivity?

As a parent, you can probably notice if your child is having clothing sensitivities. Some signs that you often see are:

  • Pulling at clothing
  • Dislike putting on socks and shoes
  • Prefer not to wear clothes
  • Preference for the same clothing each day
  • Dislike new clothing
  • Dislike the tag on clothing

A child with clothing sensory issues may only have difficulty with one piece of garment, or they may have trouble with all pieces of clothing.

They can refuse to wear full-length pants during winters. This can also make them unwilling to wear clothes that fit them. Instead, they may want to wear clothes that are too small or too large for them, or the same clothes every day.

Here, we outline why your child might have clothing sensory issues, how that relates to sensory processing issues, and activities that you can do with your child.

Sensory Processing Disorder and Clothing Sensitivity

Portrait of tired bored unhappy child girl sitting in outdoor cafe

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) is a state where a child’s brain gets affected and has trouble processing sensory information. Sensory information includes sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. A child who has sensory processing disorder can have an over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to a sense.

In humans, it is the sensory system of the human body that prioritizes all incoming sensory information.

Once a stimulus is identified as important to the process, other information gets shifted to the background. In daily life, if the sensory input is deemed as safe, then the body will start to push this sensory information to the back. This is called habituation.

This is typically what happens when we put on clothing. Although our touch receptors on our skin can feel the clothing on our skin when we draw our attention to it. Typically what happens is our sensory system deems this feeling as ‘safe’ and then we can use our sensory system for other things around us, like feeling our fingers when we are typing or holding the cup as we are drinking.

However, for children with sensory processing issues, their sensory system does not become habitual to the clothing, therefore can constantly feel the clothing on their skin.

In addition, children with Sensory Processing Disorder may have an increased sensitivity toward touch. Therefore, they are even more sensitive to clothes.

If this is the case for your child, the feeling of irritation caused by the clothing remains at the top of their mind. Therefore it can be hard to focus on everything else around them.

Many children with clothing sensitivity issues feel uncomfortable wearing tight-fitting clothing these can include T-shirts, socks or pants. It would be best to buy clothing that is seamless such as seamless socks, a seamless sports bra or underwear, and focus on natural materials over synthetic blends.

Heavy Work Activity to Cope With Clothing Sensitivity

Family pillow fight

There are quite a few ways to help children to overcome clothing sensitivities. One of these comprises, surprisingly, heavy work activities. It helps children to overcome any kind of sensory processing difficulties, especially tactile defensiveness.

Children with Sensory Processing Disorder cope better when introduced to Heavy Work Activities. Generally, heavy work activity is described as any work that generates deep pressure on the upper body joints.

This includes activities like pushing or pulling a laundry basket, carrying a pile of clothes, or putting them in the washing machine.

Each time, before getting dressed you can lessen your child’s clothing sensitivity by introducing some heavy work activities to them. Also, heavy work can easily be disguised into playtime, which will remove all the resistance of your child towards it.

All in all, engaging your little one is a heavy activity can be a complete game-changer in helping to warm up the muscles and reduce sensitivity.

Here are some heavy work activities to consider:

  1. Carry a number of books
  2. Pillow fight
  3. Animal walk using the upper body parts
  4. Play catch with a large ball
  5. Climb a chair or couch
  6. Tug of war
  7. Play statue
  8. Hand pushing games
  9. Squishing slimes or play-dough
  10. Carrying large objects

Sensory experiences are distinct. Anything that feels soft to you may not appear the same to your child. It is necessary to respect your child’s preferences to help them deal with clothing sensitivity.

Other Things To Consider 

Mother dressing child
  • You should consider taking notes to identify the effects of certain activities on your child. It will help you figure out the most effective strategies for them.
  • Forcing cannot be the solution. Children who have SPD are impacted by a neurological condition (something as part of their nervous system). It is important to know that this is out of your child’s control.
  • Allowing extra time while getting ready can turn out to be a great help for your child. Children with clothing sensitivity may need more time to get ready. This is necessary to calm them before they get dressed.
  • You should talk to them about their difficulties. Talking to them will get you a clear idea about what they are going through and pinpoint the problem area. This will help you to choose clothes that better suit them. It will also strengthen the parent-child bond.
  • Buy some tagless clothes for your child if possible or simply remove the tags.
  • Washing new clothes a few times before letting your child wear it will make the garment soft. This, in turn, will make it comfortable for them to wear.
  • Avoid using detergent with artificial fragrance and color. Always go for a mild cleaning agent to wash your child’s clothes.
  • Consider choosing the clothes that fit your child perfectly. Additionally, it is better to observe the preferences of your child.

After a certain age, children feel some control over their senses. Give the option to your child to choose their clothes according to their preferences. Offering them the chance to choose their clothing will make them feel more comfortable and confident. It will put them in a happy mood. Over time, your child will develop strategies to assist with their clothing sensitivities.

References

Acorn Autism – My child is sensitive to their clothing, what can I do?. (2021). Retrieved 22 December 2021, from https://www.acornautism.co.nz/blog/2018/11/07-my-child-is-sensitive-to-clothing

Beck, b. (2021). How to Help Kids with Sensory Issues with Clothes – The OT Toolbox. Retrieved 22 December 2021, from https://www.theottoolbox.com/how-to-help-kids-with-sensory-issues-with-clothes/

Heavy Work Activities and Sensory Processing Disorder | Understood – For learning and thinking differences. (2021). Retrieved 22 December 2021, from https://www.understood.org/articles/en/heavy-work-activities 

Rice, f. (2021). Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) – familydoctor.org. Retrieved 22 December 2021, from https://familydoctor.org/condition/sensory-processing-disorder-spd/

Sensitivities, H., & (She/Her), D. (2021). How to Help your Child with Clothing Sensitivities. Retrieved 22 December 2021, from https://www.andnextcomesl.com/2019/03/how-to-help-your-child-with-clothing-sensory-issues.html 

The Best Solutions for Sensory Issues with Clothing in Kids. (2021). Retrieved 22 December 2021, from https://yourkidstable.com/sensory-issues-with-clothing/

Wang, K. (2021). 11 More Tips For Dressing Your Sensory-Sensitive Child – Friendship Circle – Special Needs Blog. Retrieved 22 December 2021, from https://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2012/05/10/11-more-tips-for-dressing-your-sensory-sensitive-child/

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