Autism and Sensory Issues

Let’s talk clothing and sensory issues!

It’s coming into autumn here which means it’s moving towards prime time for Miss V’s clothing sensitivity gremlins to rear their heads. 

Many autistic children have sensory issues and every child is different. Each day can also vary depending on their emotional state (the higher the anxiety the higher the sensory issues appear to be due to reduced tolerance level in the heightened state).

Miss V doesn’t like wearing layers or tops that are ‘too big’. Getting her to wear a jumper is a big task. When Miss V was younger I managed to get her to wear them by putting the shirt inside the jumper, then putting it on her in one go as one single unit. Last year that strategy was hit and miss – mostly miss. 

Some ways to tell that sensory issues might be bothering your child:

  • They are more irritable or fussy than normal
  • They are pulling at their clothes (or one particular item or area of clothing)
  • They have meltdowns when you try to put on a particular thing
  • They shut down (become still, a ‘fixed’ facial expression and stop talking – this is what Miss V does)
  • They outright tell you that they hate The Thing

So what on earth could the sensitivity be then? If you aren’t sure, you might have to do a process of elimination. Is it the texture of the fabric (often fluffy, scratchy or static-y clothing can cause issues), is it the fit of the clothing (too tight, too loose, too high up on the neck, too dangly), are there tags or seams or ruffles that are causing the issue? Is the fabric rustly when it’s moved? It might be the sound that’s causing the issue. Experiment and observe your little one and their reaction.

Here are some strategies that you can try with your little one

🧥let them choose between 3 options that you are pretty sure are sensory issue free (gives the illusion of choice and takes away the need to battle)

🧥set a timer for an agreed time and  after that time has been reached they can take it off (With Miss V I said 1 hour, V said 1 minute, we went with 1 minute given how upset she was but even 1 minute wearing an item is a big win. In this example it had been 4c and she was soo cold and getting over an illness, shivering etc so I had asked her to wear an organic cotton jumper that she had chosen to warm up)

🧥 once the timer has gone off ask them if they want to keep it on, (in my example Miss V said no – TAKE IT STRAIGHT OFF!) Do not negotiate or coerce them to keep it on or they won’t trust you next time so respect what they have said and do what they have asked

🧥 acknowledge their effort “I’m so proud of you for trying, that was really hard for you”

🧥offer alternatives (I offered slippers, a heat pack, blanket, dressing gown or cuddles)

🧥keep in mind triggers and avoid those (frills, buttons, cuffs, fabrics, prints, loose/tight, smell, socks etc)

🧥try organic bamboo or cotton clothing as these are usually well tolerated  (Best n Less is great for these, Kmart also has a lot of organic cotton clothing now)

Find these tips helpful? Please share with someone else who you think might benefit from this knowledge. Don’t forget to join my tribe to stay up to date with awesome content and early bird discounts (I have an online parenting course coming out soon especially designed for parenting autistic or anxious children!!!!! I’m so excited to share it with you all!)

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