Use this guide to help you better understand sensory issues with clothing.

Understanding sensory issues with clothing can be quite confusing for many parents and caregivers. However, by having a good grasp of the sensory system and how it affects children is crucial in helping them navigate these challenges. Sensory issues with clothing can be hurdles for children who experience discomfort when wearing certain types of clothes due to their sensory sensitivities. In this article, we will dive into the reasons why kids may have sensory issues with clothing, discuss ways to identify these issues, and explore strategies to help them with dressing skills and making clothing choices.

Creating a supportive environment is key to help a child with sensory clothing issues develop independence and confidence in their dressing skills. By utilizing the appropriate techniques and strategies, caregivers can make a positive impact on their child's daily routine and overall quality of life. With the help of occupational therapy resources, as well as an understanding of the specific clothing sensitivities, you can empower your child to overcome these challenges.

Key Takeaways

  • Sensory issues with clothing can affect children's comfort and independence with dressing.
  • Identifying the specific clothing sensitivities is crucial to provide tailored support.
  • Occupational therapy resources and strategies can help improve dressing skills and clothing choices for children with sensory sensitivities.

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Why Do Kids Have Sensory Issues with Clothing?

Sometimes, children may experience difficulties with how their clothes feel on their skin. This is due to their sensory processing system, which can affect their comfort with different types of materials, seams, or fits of clothing. Sensitivity to clothing can vary from child to child, with some children being more sensitive to sensory input than others.

Causes of sensory issues with clothing:

  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD): Some children may be diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, which can make them more sensitive to sensory input, including the way clothing feels on their skin. Sensory Processing Disorder is a condition where the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder can also experience sensory challenges, including sensitivity to clothing, as they often have unique sensory processing patterns.
  1. Choose sensory-friendly fabrics: Soft, breathable materials such as cotton and bamboo are generally more comfortable for children with sensory sensitivities. Avoid fabrics with rough textures or irritating tags and seams.
  2. Introduce new clothing gradually: Transition your child to new clothing items by letting them touch and hold the garments before wearing them. This can help familiarize them with the feel and texture of the new clothes.
  3. Create a comfortable routine: Establishing a consistent routine for dressing can help your child feel more at ease with the process. Encourage them to participate in choosing their clothes, discussing their preferences, and expressing any concerns.

Remember, adjusting to your child's sensory needs can take time and patience. Be sure to listen to their concerns and support them in finding clothes that feel comfortable and meet their unique sensory needs.

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Does My Child Have Sensory Issues with Clothing?

If your child frequently complains about the texture, fit, or tags of their clothes, they might be experiencing sensory issues with clothing. Sensory issues can make certain fabrics and clothing items uncomfortable or irritating for your child. It's essential to understand the signs of clothing-related sensory issues and provide them with appropriate clothing options to ensure their comfort and well-being.

Some common signs that your child might have sensory issues with clothing include:

  • Refusing to wear certain types of fabrics or materials
  • Complaining about tags, seams, or other clothing details
  • Frequent meltdowns or distress when getting dressed
  • Insisting on wearing the same clothes repeatedly

You can help your child by addressing these issues in several ways:

  • Encourage communication: Make sure your child knows that it's okay to express their feelings about clothing discomfort.
  • Choose sensory-friendly fabrics: Opt for soft, breathable, and tag-free clothing items, such as sensory-friendly clothes for sensitive kids.
  • Test different clothing items: Let your child experiment with different types of clothes to find what feels most comfortable to them.

Remember, every child is unique, and what may be comfortable for one child might not necessarily work for another. It's crucial to be patient and understanding while working together to find the best clothing solutions for your child's sensory needs.

Child upset trying to get dressed due to clothing sensitivities.

Do Autistic Children Have Increased Sensitivity to Clothing?

As someone caring for an autistic child, you might be wondering about their sensitivity to clothing. Yes, it's quite common for autistic children to have an increased sensitivity to certain fabrics and textures. This is mainly due to their hypersensitivity to touch and other sensory inputs.

Here are some common issues autistic children may face with clothing:

  • Discomfort: Certain materials can cause significant discomfort for autistic children. Finding sensory-friendly clothing that is soft, smooth, and comfortable can considerably ease this issue.
  • Difficulty in understanding social norms: Autistic children may not fully comprehend the importance of dressing appropriately in various settings. It's crucial to patiently teach them social dressing norms to help them navigate through different situations.
  • Resistance to change: Autistic children may resist changing their clothes, especially if they have grown attached to particular garments. Establishing a consistent routine can help them become more comfortable with making changes in their wardrobe.

To address these sensory issues with clothes, consider the following:

  • Opt for clothes made of soft and comfortable materials like cotton.
  • Avoid clothes with tags, seams, and rough textures that may irritate the skin.
  • Choose elastic waistbands and clothes that are easy to put on and take off.
  • Provide a variety of clothing options within their comfort zone to help them adapt to different environments.

By taking into account their needs and preferences, you can make dressing a more enjoyable experience for your autistic child, and help them feel more confident and comfortable in their daily lives.

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Sensory Strategies to Improve Independence with Dressing

Everyone has unique sensory preferences in daily life, and dressing is no exception. For children with autism, getting dressed might be a challenging task. As a caring individual, you can apply sensory strategies to make the dressing process smoother for them.

  • Prioritize comfort: Choose clothes with soft textures and loose-fitting designs. Avoid tight waistbands and rough materials.
  • Establish a sensory diet: Incorporate calming activities such as warm baths, music, or deep pressure input throughout the day to regulate sensory needs.
  • Introduce brushing: A pediatric occupational therapist can guide you through the sensory integration technique known as brushing, which helps reduce tactile defensiveness.
  • Consult an occupational therapist: They can provide tailored guidance based on your child's sensory processing disorder and daily functioning.
  • Enhance motor skills: Encourage activities that improve motor skills and promote independence in dressing, such as buttoning and zipping.
  • Use social stories: Create customized narratives to help your child understand the dressing process and alleviate anxiety or meltdowns.

With these strategies, getting dressed can become a more manageable task for children with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, or other sensory-related challenges.

Here Are Some Sensory Strategies for Clothing Textures We Found Helpful:

  • Choose sensory-friendly clothing that is soft, smooth, and made of natural materials to minimize irritation.
  • Opt for seamless clothes to avoid itchy and scratchy feeling on the skin.
  • Consider adaptive clothing designed specifically for those with sensory sensitivities, offering comfort and ease of dressing.
  • Invest in comfortable clothing such as loose-fitting or breathable fabrics to reduce hypersensitivity and discomfort.
  • Provide a variety of textures for your child to touch and explore, so they can develop a tolerance towards different clothing materials.
  • Encourage the use of a discreet fidget toy for moments when they need an outlet for sensory sensitivities.
  • Create a calm and positive environment when dressing, fostering a sense of safety and trust in the process.

Specific Clothing Sensitivities


Some people are sensitive to the seams in their clothing. The seams can cause discomfort, itchiness, or even pain for those experiencing sensory issues. To help with this problem, consider looking for seamless clothing or clothes with flat seams to minimize the irritation.

Issues with Socks

Socks can be a source of distress for those with sensory sensitivities due to the texture, tightness, or seams. To address these issues, you can try:

  • Seamless socks
  • Socks made from soft, non-irritating materials
  • Socks with a looser fit to avoid tightness and pressure

Explore various brands and types of socks until you find the ones that work best for your comfort.

Sensitivities to Textures of Clothing

Different materials and textures can cause discomfort for people with sensory issues. Here are some tips to help you navigate the world of clothing textures:

  • Look for clothes made from soft fabrics like cotton or bamboo.
  • Steer clear of materials that are typically itchy, such as wool or synthetic fabrics.
  • Opt for clothes without tags or with removable tags, as they can also cause irritation.

Being mindful of textures when shopping for clothes can help you find items that feel comfortable and don't exacerbate sensory sensitivities. Be patient and be willing to experiment with different materials until you discover what works best for you.

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Weight of Clothing: Choosing Between Heavy and Light Clothes

When considering clothing for children with sensory issues, it's important to be aware of their preferences for clothing weight. Some children may be more comfortable in heavy winter clothes, while others might prefer lighter summer clothes. To accommodate these preferences, you can explore different options like adding or removing layers and trying different textures of clothes that your child prefers.

It's also crucial to think about the materials used in clothing. Natural materials like cotton, bamboo, and wool are breathable and comfortable for many children. Heavy clothing made from natural materials may be more tolerable than synthetic materials like nylon. When selecting clothes, you can opt for breathable fabrics to minimize discomfort.

Other factors to keep in mind include:

  • Deep pressure: Some children might benefit from wearing compression shirts or using weighted blankets to help them feel more secure and less agitated.
  • Layers: Experimenting with layering clothes can help find the right balance between comfort and warmth for your child. Try mixing different fabrics and weights to see what works best.
  • Tightness: While some children might prefer looser clothing, others could find comfort in the snugness of tight clothes. It's essential to identify the right fit for your child.

When shopping for clothes, consider doing so online with retailers that offer free returns. This approach can save you from the stress of trying on clothes in-store and avoid unnecessary meltdowns. Additionally, pay attention to visual and auditory preferences in clothing. Some children might be more willing to wear clothes with favorite colors, characters, or patterns.

Ensure that clothes are easily accessible in your child's room, either by laying them out or placing them in an organized manner in their closet or drawer. If possible, avoid clothing that makes irritating sounds, like buckles or sequins, if it bothers your child.

In summary, it's essential to keep your child's preferences and comfort in mind when selecting clothing. Considering factors like clothing weight, materials, and comfortable textures will help you choose clothes that make the dressing process more manageable and enjoyable for both you and your child.

Strategies to Help with Dressing Skills and Clothing Sensitivities

To support your child's dressing skills and address clothing sensitivities, consider incorporating the following strategies:

  1. Identify preferred textures: Find the fabrics your child likes and avoid ones that cause discomfort. If they need to wear an uncomfortable fabric, have them wear a preferred texture underneath to minimize the unpleasant sensation.
  2. Inside-out clothes: If your child is bothered by seams, let them wear clothes inside out.
  3. Give warmth: Warm up clothes in the dryer before dressing if your child prefers a warm sensation.
  4. Soften clothes: Wash new clothes multiple times to make them softer.
  5. Organize clothes: Label dresser drawers, organize the closet, and use hooks or hangers at eye level to make clothes easily accessible for your child.
  6. Provide visual aids: Create a visual checklist of each dressing step to guide your child.
  7. Rewards system: Set up a rewards chart with stickers so your child can track their progress and work toward a reward for dressing independently.
  8. Incorporate music: Play music or make up a silly song about getting dressed to engage your child.
  9. Use a mirror: Allow your child to visually see how they are getting dressed.
  10. Model behaviors: Show your child how to put on clothes properly by demonstrating the process.
  11. Allow extra time: Avoid rushing by giving your child the necessary time to practice dressing skills, especially during evenings or low-pressure situations.
  12. Discuss processes: Talk about the dressing routine beforehand to make sure your child knows the steps.
  13. Calming activities: Engage in calming activities like massages before dressing.
  14. Deep pressure or heavy work: Practice activities like squeezes, jumping on a trampoline, crab walking, or bear crawling before getting dressed.

For more personalized strategies, consider consulting with a local occupational therapist. If you've discovered specific clothing types that work for your child, share your suggestions in the comments. Enhance your child's personal hygiene skills by exploring resources such as Ebooks on everyday life skills and specialized resources on autism and special needs.

What Clothes are the Best to Help with Sensory Sensitivities?

When dealing with sensory sensitivities, it's important to choose clothes that are comfortable and least likely to cause irritation. Here are some tips to help you select the best clothing options for sensory issues:

  • Fabrics: Opt for soft and natural materials like cotton. Spandex and compression fabrics can also be helpful, especially if your child prefers compression clothing.
  • Seams and tags: Choose clothes with flat seams or no seams at all, as these can cause irritation. It's also a good idea to select tag-free clothing or remove tags from existing clothes.
  • Waistbands: A stretchy waistband can be more comfortable for children with sensory sensitivities. If your child prefers a tighter waistband, make sure it still provides enough flexibility and comfort.
  • Weighted clothing: For some children, weighted clothing can provide a sense of comfort and security. Consider this option if your child responds well to compression clothing.

Remember that every child is different, and their individual preferences may vary. Experimenting with different options will help you find the most comfortable and supportive clothes for your child's specific sensory needs.

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Occupational Therapy Resources for Dressing Skills and Clothing Sensitivity

Here are a few resources that may help you and your child address sensory issues with clothing and develop dressing skills:

  • Sensory-friendly clothing: Search for brands that specifically design clothes with soft materials and minimal seams, or tags that are easily removable. This is important for children who are sensitive to textures and fabric types.
  • Break down dressing tasks: Make dressing manageable by splitting it into small steps and teaching each step independently. For instance, start with pulling a shirt down, then progress towards wearing pants or socks, and finally, fastening buttons. The OT Toolbox's guide on helping kids with sensory issues offers valuable advice.
  • Use a visual schedule: Create a visible plan of action for your child to follow when getting dressed. This ensures a predictable routine and helps alleviate anxiety associated with dressing.
  • Fidget toys: Incorporate fidget toys or sensory activities before dressing. This can help with reducing any sensory sensitivities or stress. You can find several ideas in Children's Community Occupational Therapy Dressing Skills – Sensory (PDF).
  • Occupational Therapy: Work with an occupational therapist who can provide individualized strategies for your child while improving their dressing skills. Occupational therapists can also suggest suitable fine motor skills exercises that can help your child gain more independence with dressing.

By using these resources and working alongside professionals, you can better support your child in developing their dressing skills and managing their clothing sensitivity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What options are available for sensory-friendly clothing for sensitive individuals?

There is a variety of sensory-friendly clothing designed to meet the needs of those with sensitivities. These garments may be tagless, have flat seams, and are made of soft, comfortable materials. You can find them in online stores that specialize in sensory-friendly clothing.

How do sensory issues impact a child's ability to wear certain types of clothing?

Sensory issues may make a child feel uncomfortable or irritated by fabrics, textures, or the fit of their clothes. This can lead to difficulty wearing certain types of clothing, and possibly resistance to wearing clothes in general.

Is there any impact of tight clothing on adults with Sensory Processing Disorder?

Yes, tight clothing can also impact adults with Sensory Processing Disorder. It is essential to consider a person's comfort and sensitivities when choosing clothing, regardless of age, as wearing uncomfortable clothes can exacerbate sensory issues.

What are some symptoms indicative of Sensory Processing Disorder?

Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder may include:

  • Overreaction to sensory input, such as noises, textures, or lights.
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor skills.
  • Challenges in processing and interpreting information from the senses.
  • Trouble with daily activities due to sensory disruptions.

Can someone have sensory issues with clothing without being on the autism spectrum?

Yes, sensory issues with clothing can occur in individuals who are not on the autism spectrum. Sensory sensitivities may arise from other conditions, such as Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD, or anxiety disorders.

How does occupational therapy help with managing clothing sensitivities?

Occupational therapy can help individuals with clothing sensitivities by:

  • Identifying specific sensory triggers and working on desensitization techniques.
  • Developing strategies for dressing and adapting to uncomfortable clothing.
  • Recommending appropriate sensory-friendly clothing options.
  • Teaching coping mechanisms for dealing with sensory-related anxiety and stress.
Sensory Issues with Clothing, boy trying to get dressed and upset.

31 Sensory Strategies with Dressing for Children with Autism