How do I get my autistic child to change clothes?
Does your child have difficulty changing their clothes? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Lots of children with autism find it difficult to change what they wear. This can be for a variety of reasons. Their sensory needs, their dislike of change or even a fixation on a particular clothing item. Typically, sensory needs are the common reason why children with autism find wearing clothes difficult.
In this blog, we will list some things that you should consider if you would like to help your child to change their clothes.
Consider their sensory needs.
Sensory needs can impact how a child feels wearing a particular item of clothing. Consider if the item is too tight or too loose. Check if there are any labels or seams that they might find irritating. Try to establish which textures they find uncomfortable. Even the colour of their clothes could be distressing. These things can make a huge difference.
Can they communicate how they feel?
Some children with autism struggle to communicate and it can be a bit of a guessing game for parents and trial and error to figure out what works. If your child can understand social stories or PECs (picture exchange cards), you could use these to try and determine which items of clothing they do not like and try to narrow down the issue from there.
If you have a child who dislikes wearing clothing so much that they take their clothes off, a social story can help to explain why this is not always an appropriate thing to do.
Keep a record of clothing your child reacts to
Take notes or write a diary of what your child wears and how they react to try and establish what works best for your child. Ask their school to feedback to you too.
Different types of clothing to try:
Compression and weighted clothing.
Lots of children with sensory needs find deep pressure comforting. It can help them to relax, reduce anxiety and stress and even help to improve mood and concentration. There are lots of different types of compression clothing, including compression and weighted vests. It is worthwhile exploring if this helps. A compression vest can even be worn underneath their regular clothing and can help them to feel more safe and secure.
The seams on clothing can be irritating for children with autism, particularly in socks. Lots of stores now offer a range of seamless clothes to help with this.
Some children may find it difficult to put on and take off their clothing. Some shops, such as Marks and Spencer, offer a range of clothing with this in mind, from Velcro shirts to seamless leggings.
Consider the fabric detergent and conditioner that you use.
Sometimes the detergents that we use to wash our clothes can have a strong smell. Scentless, non-bio detergents might work better for your child.
Purchase the same or similar items of clothing.
If you find something that works, purchase several of the same items if you can.