For kids who are oversensitive to how things feel on their skin, getting dressed can be a literal pain. Even small irritants—a too-tight cuff, a nagging tag—can feel unbearable. You’ll need to experiment, but here are some clothing types to consider.
If your child can’t tolerate stiff or scratchy fabrics (some kids actually prefer them), you’ll have to pay close attention to details. Choose shirts without rough collars and tops without appliqués, as the reverse sides may be stiff, textured or itchy. Try loose pants with elastic waistbands if jeans or other pants that zip feel heavy or rough.
Also consider clothes that have been pre-worn and washed many times, such as hand-me-downs or thrift store bargains. This may be especially helpful for outerwear, which can be stiff when new.
Garments made from synthetic materials can feel itchy or “weird” to kids with tactile issues. (Think about jammies made of cheap fleece or acrylic winter hats.) Instead of man-made blends, consider buying natural, breathable fabrics, such as 100 percent cotton, soft—not scratchy—wool, bamboo and linen.
Clothing Without Tags and Seams
Kids with sensory processing issues may find a scratchy shirt tag or a misaligned sock seam unbearable. If you can’t easily snip a tag, try placing an adhesive bandage over the offending area. That might do the trick, unless you think your child might find the bandage even more annoying.
Look for tagless, seamless clothes when you shop. Most major retailers and specialty kids’ clothing companies carry them in stores and online.
Garments Without Tricky Fasteners
Sensory processing issues can affect kids’ motor skills. That can make tasks like tying, snapping, buttoning or zipping clothing difficult—and frustrating. Opt for Velcro fasteners when possible. And while tying may also be challenging, consider pants with drawstrings. Drawstrings gather material from across a wider area rather than creating a single pressure point.
Clothes That Won’t Bunch Up
If boxer shorts bother your son when they get hiked up on his thighs, opt for briefs instead. Likewise, choose bathing suits without a netting liner. For girls, find a bra that fits without slipping down her shoulders—a sports bra or a racerback style may be a safe bet.
For all kids with sensory processing issues, choose socks that won’t slouch or slip down inside shoes.
Sometimes as part of sensory integration therapy, kids are covered with heavy blankets or wear weighted vests. These are sometimes called “compression” vests.
If your child takes comfort in that “cocoon” feeling, try dressing him in layers. A T-shirt, hooded sweatshirt and vest might feel better to your child than, say, a button-down and light sweater. (You can also buy special weighted garments, though they tend to be pricey.)