Kids are particular creatures.
Everything has to be “just so”. Clothing is no exception.
Many young kids go through a period when we parents are afraid their kids will have to join a nudest colony because they just won’t put a stitch on!
But if you’re child has sensory issues, getting dressed may be your biggest battle of the day.
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If your child reacts with a fight or flight response to clothing, sensory issues may be at play. Tactile defensiveness results from an over-sensitivity to touch.
If the child has sensory processing disorder, their brains struggle to filter pertinent information from input that should be ignored.
Imagine ALWAYS being acutely aware of the feel of your clothing, to the point that you can’t focus on anything else, there’s just too many signals coming in!
Tips and Tricks for Tactile Defensiveness
When tags are itchy or fabric drives your kids crazy a great way to make everyone happy is to have the first layer, the one actually touching your kids’ skin, to be something they love.
For my son, that’s a swim shirt. (Here’s a GREAT long sleeve Rashguard Shirt.) Silky smooth and non-bulky, it has saved us from many meltdowns.
Find what your kids love and let that be the first layer.
In fact, there are retailers that specialize in making undergarments that kids LOVE! SmartKnit has an incredible line of socks, undies and more that are all seamless, tagless and super comfy!
Do Proprioceptive Sensory Activities
Proprioception is the input that is received from the joints and ligaments of the body. It creates body awareness and thrives on weight and heavy work.
Common proprioceptive activities include:
> Weighted blankets
> Big hugs
Something about our bodies craves this proprioceptive input, and when we get it, it’s like our brain can handle whatever life throws at it, including textures and touch! Proprioception is the great sensory regulator.
Occupational therapists have a go-to technique called Wilbarger brushing that can do wonders for kids with all kinds of sensory issues.
The basic idea is to brush the skin (with these Sensory Brushes) to reduce defensiveness and give tons of beneficial proprioceptive input. Proprioception is great for helping the brain regulate and sort through input all. day. long.
Watch how to do this simple technique.
Take Them Shopping with You
Children with sensory issues often surprise us with their preference. We may think we’ve found the perfect outfit only to have it adamantly rejected.
One way to avoid the power struggle is to invite the child along for the shopping trip. Have reasonable guidelines in place, but give the child as much freedom of choice as possible.
They know best what feels good and will enjoy having a say in the matter.
Pick Your Battles
Along those same lines, give kids as much power to choose as you can.
I know the outfits they wear can be cringe-worthy. But do your best to only put your foot down when it’s absolutely necessary (trust me, you’ll have many opportunities!)
Matching is over rated, no one died from wearing the same shirt two days in a row (or three), and even a Texan can survive outside without a jacket in 60 degree weather.
When a non-negotiable does come up, be sympathetic and as helpful as possible.
Tactile defensiveness can be frustrating for everyone involved. Do your best to make allowances, and in the mean time, engage with our FREE exclusive facebook group. We know how you feel!
Have more questions??? Check out this wildly popular series of Sensory FAQs and become a more confident sensory parent today!
My daughter’s main issue has been with socks and jackets (though we often hear that something just doesn’t “feel right”). I was so glad to find seamless socks several months ago. The mornings of holding my breath to see if her socks would “feel right” were over. Best purchase ever!
Brilliant! I want some of those (for me!)
Full Spectrum Mama says
Haha – I just opted out of a potentially epic coat battle this very morning. Teenager plus sensory is quite a ride…
Thanks and love,
Full Spectrum Mama says
Great tips. Now I need more 😉
Here’s something “fun:” finally get through some of the sensory stuff and have a kid who has ZERO sense of SENSE around clothes. My teen, who has sensory differences and is on the spectrum, will get dressed in ANYTHING. nylon shorts and a fleece over nothing in the winter? Sure.
Thanks and love,
Full Spectrum mama
K Cook says
We tried the Wilbarger brushing on our 3 year old with autism and it did wonders to help him with more than just the tactile sensory– it helped him to be more verbal as well. I think the sensory integration took away some of the stress he was experiencing. It is pretty intense because you have to do it every few hours (6 times a day) for a month, but it only takes a minute. The hardest part was remembering, but it became a habit. Totally worth it!
So good to hear! Yes, consistency is hard, but sure seems to be worth it!
Any suggestions of where to find a swimsuit for a little girl with tactile defensiveness? She can’t tolerate tight clothing, sleeves that wrinkle, collars, waist bands or seams. We have just recently identified her challenges, and I’m new to this. This past summer, she was willing to wear a bathing suit, but now the one she like this summer is now unbearable. Is this common for kids with TD? Do their preferences become more narrow?
I always use this company for socks and undergarments. No seams and very comfortable material. http://www.smartknitkids.com/ It doesn’t look like they have girls swim suits, but maybe a compression shirt coupled with some darker colored underwear from this place might pass? Yeah, kids preference can change HOURLY depending on how much input they’re getting and how out of control they feel. I have a course on Sensory Parenting that I think you’d find quite helpful if you’re interested. Here’s the link. Enrollment is this week only! http://www.sensoryparenting101.com
My daughter has really sensitive skin and we found Peekaboo Beans clothing to be our solution. She’s no longer itchy or wanting to go naked – the clothes are so soft; they’re made with a really high thread-count, and they don’t have the usual chemical finishes, carcinogenic dyes or heavy metals found in most clothing. My friend’s little guy is on the spectrum and watching him put on his first Beans shirt was amazing to witness… it was like the tension left his body. He wouldn’t take it off!
Cotton, Silk and Fine Lenin – not rough one, are the best suited clothes for kids with sensitive skin as they are natural fabric, pleasant to touch, smooth and pliable. We must make sure that the clothes are loose fitting which is ideal for sensitive skin.
Joanne Dimech says
I’m an educator and I have been asked for advice by two mothers who have the same problem. Their boys who are aged 5 are refusing to put on any clothes that have buttons. They do not want to see them or touch them. These mothers are very concerned for when school starts. The school uniforms are made up of a shirt. What can we do to help these boys accept that there are days when they have to put on a shirt?
Denice Wisniewski says
My 2 year old grandson will not wear winter gloves. Any suggestions for gloves or mittens. He has an upcoming occupational appointment because we are pretty sure he has tactile defensiveness. He lives in the northwest and it does get cold there so I am looking for gloves or mittens for his little hands. He does well with layering to keep out the cold but just refuses to put anything on his hands and then becomes distressed when his hands get cold. I appreciate any suggestions.