Dressing Children With Special Needs Made Easy
Dressing children with special needs can be challenging. For them and us. Common resistance tantrums include being adamant that they are not wearing any shoes today, the refusal to wear anything on a rainy November day other than their favourite PAW Patrol tee-shirt for the third day in a row, or complaints a jumper has suddenly become itchy. We spoke to parents of children with special needs to find out what they do to make getting dressed easier.
Collectively, the feedback was to start by looking at alternatives. If your child complains that their outfit is irritating, believe them. Find out what it is that is bothering them, whether it's the fabrics, the tags, the stitching or seams, the sensation of metal or other material against their skin and work with them to come up with a wardrobe solution. Adaptive clothing for children can make a huge difference. Tag-free undergarments can increase overall comfort or add a layer of warmth. Are you getting complaints that tights are too itchy? Cotton jersey leggings make a fantastic replacement when wearing a skirt or dress.
One of the biggest difficulties is when your little ones will only walk around in their birthday suits. Trying to explain to them that this is not okay can often be faced with an angry protest and the stamping of feet. The alternative to saying no is demonstrating how others dress and showing the consequences of inappropriate dress. How not wearing wellies in the rain ruins their favourite sparkly clean trainers, or how you need to put on a top on in the supermarket to buy chocolates.
An extension of this is also when children with special needs refuse to dress for the weather. This is perfectly okay. If they are appropriately dressed, but will not adapt their outfit based on the weather, let them leave the house as they are, knowing that you have packed back-ups. There is a plethora of adaptive clothing for children available that you can layer. If your child likes wearing short sleeve bodysuits but won't wear a jumper in the cold, have one ready and when faced with the reality of the temperature, without making a fuss, you can say to them “Oh you’re cold? No problem, here is a hat/coat/jumper.” Being flexible with the process of getting dressed allows them to adapt to learning to make better choices naturally.
As well as getting dressed for the day ahead, another important decision-making process takes place when it comes to choosing what to wear at nighttime. Typical evening bugbears take the form of itchy material complaints and refusing to use a blanket. It is vital to make the right choices at bedtime to avoid exhausted and cranky kids. Specialist bodysuits and long sleeve bodysuits over cotton clothing make a great alternative; providing warmth and a pleasant sensation against the skin.
Lastly, give your child some freedom! If they are choosing to dress themselves; encourage this behaviour. By handing over the responsibility, you are guiding them towards self-sufficiency. You can always transition towards this independence by initially offering them three outfit choices. If they are going through a Darth Vadar phase, let them dress in all black; if the hulk is the best thing since sliced bread, offer green wherever possible to get them on your side.This type of experimentation will work wonders at improving sensory tolerance.
There is no one size fits all easy dressing solution when it comes to children with special needs, but by having adaptive clothing, giving some freedom, and preparing for weather eventualities, you can work as a team to make getting ready fun and enjoyable.