November 22, 2018

Finding the right clothing for children with sensory processing issues

By Verena Barthel
Finding the right clothing for children with sensory processing issues

For children who are oversensitive to how things feel on their skin, getting dressed can be a literal pain.

Even small irritants, like a too-tight cuff or a nagging tag—can feel unbearable.

As a parent it can be helpful to understand and know how to support your child and be able to meet the needs required.

Taking the stress out of the daily dressing  and helping your child to be comfortable can make a big difference for the whole family.

Obviously, there are no set rules that will lead to immediate success, given that every little person is absolutely unique and therefore it is important to not loose heart if the first new piece of children's clothing or that insanely cute dress will evoke another painful dressing experience and or gets rejected straight away.

The key is to experiment and try different clothes.

Whether you prefer to buy your children's clothing online in Australia or love to go for the occasional local shopping spree, here are a few tips that can help your child to feel more comfortable in his or her own skin with the right clothes for hypersensitivity.


 Super-Soft Clothes

  • If your child can’t tolerate stiff or scratchy fabrics (some kids actually prefer them), you’ll have to pay close attention to details.
  • Choose shirts without rough collars and tops without appliqués, as the reverse sides may be stiff, textured or itchy.
  • Try loose pants with elastic waistbands if jeans or other pants with zippers feel to tight, heavy or rough.
  • Pre-wash new clothes a few times to soften them or choose children's clothes that have been pre-worn and washed many times, such as hand-me-downs or OP shop bargains.
  • Choose organic cotton children's clothing whenever you can. Cotton is known as one of the softest, most comfortable fabrics but unfortunately, it's also one of the most heavily chemically treated crops in the world. Those chemicals change the make-up of the cotton, penetrating and harming the fibers that make the fabric so soft. Organic cotton is cotton in its most pure form, using the raw fibers as they were intended by nature; this is why organic clothing is so much softer than non-organic cotton.

Organic & Natural Materials

  • Clothing made from synthetic materials can feel itchy or “weird” to kids with tactile issues. (Think about PJ's made of cheap fleece or acrylic winter hats.)
  • Synthetic fabrics are not breathable, which can make your child feel like suffocating.
  • Instead of man-made blends, choose organic and naturally breathable fabrics, such as 100 % organic cotton, soft organic merino wool, silk, linen and bamboo.

Clothing Without Tags and Seams

  • Kids with sensory processing issues may find a scratchy shirt tag or a misaligned sock seam unbearable.
  • If you can’t easily snip a tag, try placing an adhesive bandage over the offending area. That might do the trick, unless you think your child might find the bandage even more annoying.
  • Look for tagless, seamless clothes when you shop. Most major retailers and specialty kids’ clothing companies carry them in stores and online.

Children's Clothing Without Tricky Fasteners

  • Sensory processing issues can affect kids’ motor skills.
  • That can make tasks like tying, snapping, buttoning or zipping clothing difficult—and frustrating.
  • Choose children's clothing with Velcro fasteners whenever possible.
  • And while tying may also be challenging, consider pants with drawstrings.
  • Drawstrings gather material from across a wider area rather than creating a single pressure point.

Clothes That Won’t Bunch Up

  • If boxer shorts bother your son when they get hiked up on his thighs, choose briefs instead.
  • Likewise, choose bathing suits without a netting liner.
  • For girls, find a bra that fits without slipping down her shoulders—a sports bra or a racer back style may be a safe bet.
  • For all kids with sensory processing issues, choose socks that won’t slouch or slip down inside shoes.

Heavy Clothing

  • Sometimes as part of sensory integration therapy, kids are covered with heavy blankets or wear weighted vests. These are sometimes called “compression” vests.
  • If your child takes comfort in that “cocoon” feeling, try dressing him or  her in layers.
  • A tee, hooded sweatshirt and vest might feel better to your child than, say, a button-down and light sweater.
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