Winter Clothes and Sensory Defensiveness
With autumn now in full swing and winter right around the corner, many parents of children with SPD are beginning their seasonal struggle to dress their children for the cold weather. Many children with SPD experience sensory defensiveness, especially tactile defensiveness. This tactile defensiveness manifests as an over-sensitivity to touch information. Individuals with tactile aversions can interpret a light or unexpected touch as painful, yet may crave deep touch pressure and heavy work (proprioceptive). Because of such sensitivities, clothing can be problematic.
Children who present with tactile dysfunction often report being unable to wear socks or shoes, certain fabrics or restrictive wear. They may wear the same shirt or outfit over and over and plain out refuse to wear shoes. Seasonal clothing transitions can be a real challenge for parents of children with SPD. So, what’s a parent to do?
- Involve you child in the process of finding clothes that feel good to them. When shopping, let them explore various textures of fabrics, fittings of shoes, etc. By being an active participant in the selection, children can take some control over what they wear, be more comfortable and hopefully, dress appropriately for all kinds of weather.
- Natural fibers tend to be easier to tolerate. Clothing made from 100% cotton tends to be easier for the defensive child to tolerate. Soft knits, fleeces are popular too. Avoid scratchy synthetics.
- Tags! The ultimate culprit of irritation for those with tactile aversions. If you cut the tag out, remember to remove all of the tags. Elasticated waist bands can be easier to tolerate than trousers with zippers. Try to purchase seamless socks if possible. Marks and Spencers recently came out with a sensory friendly line of clothing which is worth noting.
- Pre-wash and soften new clothes. Just another way to ensure that the clothing will be comfortable.
- Finding the perfect coat. Puffer-fiber filled jackets are soft to the touch and warm. Avoid scratchy wool coats. Your child would benefit from shopping for the perfect winter coat, as she/he will be wearing this everyday for several months.
- Hats, scarves and gloves can also be challenging to tolerate for children with tactile issues. The same principles apply for all of the above; non-scratchy fabric, no tags, not too tight or constricting. Let your child choose what makes them feel happy and comfortable.
Clothing changes with the seasons can be hard on both parents and child but some preparation and respecting a child’s clothing preferences as much as we respect our own can go along way to making the transitions easier.