For kids who have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), wearing certain clothes may be bothersome. Even tiny seams and tags, which those who aren’t sensitive to how things feel on their skin may not notice, can be extremely upsetting and cause literal pain. If your child has this condition, here are some sensory-clothing ideas to help them feel comfortable.
Clothing solutions for kids with SPD
1. Look for super-soft clothes
If your kid can’t bear the feel of scratchy or stiff fabrics, or clothing that has appliqued designs or rough edges. Go for tops that don’t feature heavy decorations and shirts without collars (the reverse side may be textured, stiff, or itchy). Choose to buy loose pants with elastic waistbands. For some children, you may want to avoid jeans or other pants that zip up as they can feel rough or heavy.
You may also want to consider clothes that have been washed many times or already been worn, such as hand-me-downs or thrift store finds, as they are considerably softer than new clothes This is especially true for outerwear which tends to be stiff when new.
2. Avoid items that have tags and seams
These clothing features can be especially irritating for kids that have sensory issues – a misaligned sock seam or a simple shirt tag can cause be unbearable for those with SPD. A majority of retailers now offer seamless and tagless clothing both online and in stores. However, if these items are not easy to find or afford, you can try placing adhesive bandages over tags or snip them off as close to the seam as possible.
3. Avoid clothes that have tricky fasteners
SPD can affect a child's motor skills. As a result, tasks such as zipping, snapping, and buttoning clothing are very frustrating. Avoid clothes with these types of fasteners, going for Velcro fasteners or drawstrings where possible.
4. Go for clothes made from natural fabric
Clothing made from synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester, and viscose can make kids who have sensory issues uncomfortable. Instead of going for synthetic blends, consider selecting natural, breathable fabric such as 100% cotton, linen, silk, and bamboo rayon.
5. Choose items that don’t bunch up
Choose clothes that don’t bunch up. For boys with SPD, avoid boxer shorts, opting to go for briefs instead. Also, consider choosing bathing suits that don't have a netting liner. When shopping for girls, look for bras that fit without slipping down the shoulders – to be on the safe side. Go for sports bras or racerback style varieties.
7. Be flexible when it comes to weather-appropriate clothing
A majority of kids with SPD find winter clothes to be bothersome. Therefore, you may want to have them practice wearing these clothes for brief periods before it becomes really cold to get them used to the feel. Alternatively, you can dress your child in layers so that they have an easy time removing outerwear once they are indoors. Another option is to buy less stiff/softer items such as fleeces or sweatshirts for kids who hate the feel of coats.
8. Choose heavy clothing
Some kids that have SPD derive a sense of comfort from being covered in heavy clothing. If this is your child's preference, you may want to add thicker layers rather than several thin layers during the winter to give them that “cocoon’ feeling.
9. Experiment with nighttime clothes
SPD can affect your kid's sleeping pattern, especially if they find their pajamas uncomfortable. Try asking them if they prefer lighter or heavier blankets, flannel, or cotton choices, and inquire about any other texture issues that they may have.
10. Go for comfortable undergarments
Ensure that the undergarments you choose for your little one are tagless and seamless. This way, he/she will be better equipped to deal with other layers that may not feel as comfortable.
11. -Avoid socks that slip
You want to steer clear of socks that slouch or slip down into the insides of shoes as they tend to trigger sensations that are associated with SPD.
12. Try compression undershirts
Choose compression undershirts that have a seamless torso, extra-wide shoulder straps, and soft edging for a soft feel and all-day comfort. The deep pressure feeling that a compression undershirt brings about provides the ideal amount of firmness for a gentle “hug” feel that can help or focus and SPD-affected kid who prefers a deep sensory input.
How to deal with sensory issues with clothing
- Offer choices
As soon as your child has a better understanding of their body experience, they become more willing to try things that are out of their comfort zone. To encourage this, consider offering choices – you can start by giving them two pairs of pants or dresses to choose from, preferably of different textures or fit.
- Never force
It might be tempting to force your little one to wear a particular pair of socks or pants, but this can only prove to be detrimental to their sensory system and make things worse. Furthermore, this will only make them more resistant in the future as they will assume that you don’t understand.
- Be understanding
When you notice that you are getting frustrated by your child's sensory issues, try to put yourself in their shoes, and imagine how uncomfortable they must be feeling. This way, you will find yourself handling their outbursts with a bit more patience.
- Give them extra time
When you are aware that your kid has sensory issues with clothes, you are in a better position to deal with them. Because sensory systems are in constant fluctuation, you might notice that what bothers them today may not be an issue the next. Take the time to pick up on their triggers and reactions to start working through them.
When kids have sensory processing issues with clothing, it can be confusing, overwhelming, and exhausting, both for you and them. Instead of trying to force them to wear something that they are uncomfortable with, consider the above-suggested sensory-friendly clothing ideas, and most of all, try to be understanding of what they are going through.