Navigating Sensory Challenges: Dressing Tips for Children with Sensory Sensitivities
For children with sensory sensitivities, getting dressed can be a daily struggle that leads to stress and discomfort. Sensory issues related to clothing can manifest in various ways, such as discomfort with specific fabrics, seams, tags, or tightness. This article aims to provide practical advice and strategies for parents to help their children with sensory needs navigate the process of getting dressed while considering their unique sensory sensitivities.
Understanding Sensory Challenges Related to Clothing:
Sensory sensitivities can impact how a child perceives and processes sensory input. When it comes to clothing, some common challenges children may experience include:
Some fabrics may feel scratchy, itchy, or irritating to the child's skin.
Certain textures, like wool or polyester, may trigger sensory discomfort.
Seam and Tag Sensitivity:
Seams on clothing, especially those with rough edges or exposed stitching, can cause irritation or discomfort.
Tags can be bothersome due to their texture, stiffness, or location.
Sensitivity to Tightness or Pressure:
Children may have heightened sensitivity to tight clothing, such as elastic waistbands, socks, or sleeves.
The feeling of being constricted or restrained by clothing can lead to discomfort and distress.
Dressing Tips for Parents:
Respect and Acknowledge Sensory Preferences:
Observe your child's reactions and preferences regarding clothing. Respect their sensory sensitivities and avoid pushing them to wear items that cause distress.
Involve your child in the clothing selection process whenever possible. Let them choose fabrics, colors, or styles that they find comfortable and enjoyable.
Seek Out Sensory-Friendly Clothing:
Look for clothing specifically designed for sensory sensitivities. These garments often have features like seamless construction, tagless labels, and soft, breathable fabrics.
Consider clothing with adjustable features, such as elastic-free waistbands, Velcro closures, or adaptive clothing options.
Gradual Exposure and Desensitization:
Introduce new clothing items gradually. Start with brief periods of wearing the new item, gradually increasing the duration over time.
Pair challenging clothing items with preferred or comforting items to ease the transition.
Modify Problematic Features:
Cut out tags or use tagless clothing options. Alternatively, try placing soft fabric or seam tape over the tags to reduce irritation.
If seams are bothersome, choose clothing with hidden or flat seams, or consider wearing the clothing inside-out.
Layering can provide a sense of security and flexibility. Use soft, comfortable base layers underneath clothing to minimize contact between the skin and potentially irritating fabrics.
Provide Sensory Input:
Prior to dressing, incorporate sensory activities to help regulate your child's sensory system. Activities like deep pressure massages, brushing, or joint compressions can promote calmness and reduce sensitivities.
Use Visual Supports and Routines:
Create visual schedules or step-by-step visual guides to help your child understand and follow the dressing routine. This can provide structure, predictability, and reduce anxiety.
Offer Choices and Control:
Provide your child with limited choices to foster a sense of autonomy. For example, allow them to choose between two pre-approved outfits or decide the order in which they put on clothing items.
Recognize and celebrate your child's accomplishments and efforts. Offer praise and positive reinforcement when they tolerate or engage with clothing items that were challenging for them.
Remember, each child is unique, and it may take time to find strategies that work best for your child.
About The Author
Kimberly is an Occupational Therapist with a Master's in Teaching, and is Certified in Special Education. She is also a mom, avid traveler, and marathon runner