As parents and caregivers, most of us have experienced our children removing their clothing due to discomfort, and oftentimes at the worst possible times. With holidays, celebrations, and even colder weather, clothing sensitivity is often exacerbated, so we contacted Julia DeNey, fashion expert and founder of Sense-ational You, to explain how to avoid these situations.
Understand What Makes Your Child Sensitive
The first step to targeting the problem of clothing removal in a sensitive child is learning to recognize and respect your child’s sensory needs. Each kid will have specific triggers; knowing them is essential to finding a solution. The right fit and fabric make all the difference, especially if your child has sensory issues. We recommend soft, breathable materials without tags or seams that irritate the skin.
Create a Comfortable Environment
Whenever possible, adapt your child’s environment to minimize sensory overload. At home, this includes things like regulating the temperature and utilizing non-fluorescent lighting. Out and about, dress for the weather, and use things like headphones to minimize noise. The less sensory input, the less likely your child will be to remove clothing.
Practice Desensitization Techniques
Introduce new clothing items gradually. Let them touch and hold new clothes before wearing them, and have them wear items for short periods, followed by positive reinforcement.
Involve Your Child in Their Clothing Choices
Empowering your child by involving them in selecting their own clothes will give them a sense of control and help them feel more comfortable with new and different clothing items.
Establish a Dressing Routine
Children with sensory issues, and even those without, thrive on routine. A dressing routine will provide a sense of security and predictability, which will lessen the likelihood of clothing removal by reducing anxiety. This can be done with the help of visual schedules and social stories.
Address Behavioral Aspects
Utilize positive reinforcement to encourage your child to keep clothes on. However, if the behavior occurs, ensure you address it calmly without punishment. The behavior of removing clothing is not defiance but a response to discomfort that needs to be addressed.
Consider Alternative Clothing Options
Consider alternative clothing options if your child is uncomfortable in the clothing you are dressing them in. Many children benefit from one-piece suits, sensory-friendly undergarments, weighted vests, and compression clothing to help them self-regulate. Be aware of other clothing triggers, such as zippers and embroidery, that could be irritating them as well.
Know When to Seek Professional Help
If you have tried all the tips or are frustrated while struggling to manage sensory issues, seeking professional advice is an excellent option. Occupational therapists or pediatricians who specialize in sensory processing will offer support and guidance.
Understanding and accommodating your child’s unique needs is essential to help them feel comfortable and continue to adjust to the world around them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julia DeNay graduated from Cornell University in Fashion Design. After connecting with educators at an inclusive preschool, she learned about the struggles that many autistic parents face when finding clothing for their children. Julia founded Sense-ational You in 2020 to bring awareness to those with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorders, and offer comfortable clothing.
Cover Photo by Ksenia Chernaya