Clothing sensory issues can be exhausting! Learn why kids may have a sensory sensitivity, how to help your kid who refuses to wear clothes, get ideas for sensory friendly clothing.
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I’m standing in the kitchen trying to enjoy the hot coffee that just spit out of my Keurig and I wince when I hear my son, crying in the distance. As a pediatric occupational therapist I know it’s because of sensory issues with clothing.
Two minutes ago, he left the kitchen to get dressed for school. As I climb the stairs, I take a deep breath to brace myself with loads of patience because I know what the scene will be when I open his bedroom door…
Just as I suspected, he’s standing there in his underwear, hardly able to talk because he’s crying so hard with pants strewn all over the place on the floor.
I bend down in front of him and tell him to take a deep breath, and then he says, “I can’t wear pants, I hate the way they feel on my legs.” I give him a tight hug, (which is calming proprioceptive input to his sensory system) and then I say, “Don’t worry, we’ll work it out.”
I’d like to share my insider OT tricks with YOU, I’ve got 13 of them, but first let’s figure out if your kid has sensory issues with clothing too!
Does my Child Have Sensory Issues with Clothing?
This story about my son and I may sound all too familiar to you. The fact is that a lot of kids are particular about what kinds of clothing they wear. It could be their socks, pants, or a preference to wear no clothing at all!
This is quite different from the child that refuses to wear anything other than blue or to always be in a dress because they like to twirl.
What I’m talking about is way more than a style preference. Instead, it’s about refusing to wear clothing because of how it feels. If your child is demanding to wear or not wear certain clothing because of a seam, particular fit, or type of fabric, then it’s likely because of their sensory system.
All of us have some sensory quirks, maybe your child likes to wear their socks inside out or always have a dress on. While that’s related to their unique sensory system, if it’s not causing stress in their daily life it’s a preference not an issue.
For kids that freak out, tantrum, and meltdown over wearing clothing then they likely do have sensory issues with clothing.
Don’t hit the panic button though, because there’s a lot you can do to support your child and stop all the drama getting or staying dressed.
And, there’s even more strategies you can use to improve their sensory processing so they aren’t as sensitive to various clothing anymore!
Why Kids Have Sensory Issues with Clothing…
Lots of kids, like my son, have a sensory sensitivity to certain types of textures and no diagnosis. Sensory issues with clothing are specifically related to our sense of touch or the tactile system, which is 1 of the 8 senses.
For my son, his brain is getting so many signals that the pants are on his legs, that it’s hard for him to focus on anything else. He perceives this as uncomfortable and begins to cry at the thought of wearing those pants.
Most kids that have sensory issues with clothing will often react this way. In fact, it could even be full-out sensory meltdowns over trying to put on a pair of socks, even special sensory friendly socks you bought!
As parents, it’s frustrating and exhausting. It can also be hard to understand why they can’t just put the pants on. We may even force them to.
But, our kids are literally yelling out because those pants might be downright painful. It may seem dramatic, but they are actually perceiving the clothing differently than you or I would.
They aren’t being bad when they refuse to wear jeans, socks, or pants, it’s simply how their brain works, and they don’t quite know how to put that into words.
Clothing Sensory Issues = Tactile Defensive
Also, many kids that have sensory issues with clothing also don’t like to get messy or are particular about what they will touch and perhaps even eat.
That’s because all of those activities are related to the tactile sense, when there’s a general sensitivity with touching textures a child likely is tactile defensive.
Depending on how severe the tactile defensiveness is, if there are other sensory sensitivities, or any other sensory issues, a child may have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Is it Common for Kids with ADHD and ASD to Have Clothing Sensory Issues
It is common for sensory issues with clothing to pop up for kids with ADHD and Autism. That’s because a very high percentage of kids with these diagnoses also have Sensory Processing Disorder.
Sensory issues show up in a lot of different ways, but these clothing sensitivities seem to be particularly common with ADHD and autism.
However, as an OT I’d use the same strategies (that you’ll learn below) to help a kid that’s refusing to wear clothes whether they had no diagnosis, ADHD, SPD, or Autism because the underlying cause is the same regardless!
How to Manage Your Kid’s Sensory Issues with Clothing?
First, let’s talk about how to handle sensory issues with clothing on a daily basis. Basically, what you can start doing right now! (In the next section I’ll teach you some deeper strategies to improve their clothing sensitivity.)
Step #1: Be Understanding
This may sound like a small detail, but don’t overlook this step because this is what helps us keep our sanity. When you find yourself getting frustrated or exhausted by your kid’s sensory issues with clothing, try to imagine how uncomfortable it must be for them.
Remember, it is likely painful. They aren’t being bad.
The added benefit to this is that over time, your kid will notice your understanding and start to communicate better because they know you get it and are there for them.
Instead of freaking out, they may think, “I need mom/dad/grandma, they’ll help me.” And, voila, meltdown avoided. That’s half the battle!
Step #2: Don’t Force
Oh so tempting, but forcing a pair of socks, pants, or fancy lacy dress can have a pretty detrimental effect on their sensory system, making matters only worse.
Not to mention that they are going to fight you more in the future because they’ll think you don’t get it and aren’t there to help.
This plays off of step 1, but patience and understanding make all the difference for sensory sensitive kids.
Step #3: Allow for extra time
When you know your child has sensory issues with clothing, this can be a total game changer.
Can you start your morning or bedtime routine earlier, even just 5 or 10 minutes to give the space to take time getting dressed and giving any support that’s needed?
If so, it can cause everyone, especially you, to feel less stressed!
It’s also important to note that kids’ sensory systems are always in fluctuation, which means that what bothers them one day might not the next.
For some kids, it can be hard to predict when they’re going to have a total meltdown over the jeans. Consistently having that extra time to work through it might be exactly what you need.
Step #4: Offer Choices
As soon as kids feel like they have some control over what their body experiences, they are more willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone. If possible, give them two pairs of pants to choose from, ideally of different textures or fit.
If they aren’t sure, you can talk about the differences, “You can choose the black pants with no buttons, or these jeans with a zipper and snap. Which would you like to wear today?”
Step #5: Choose sensory friendly clothing
While every child is unique, a lot of sensory issues with clothing are because of seams in socks, underwear, or pants. Or a kid has a strong preference for comfortable clothing that is soft and not constricting.
So they may hate the elastic at the bottom of sweatpants or the top. Or, they hate jeans because they’re stiff, a sweater because it’s itchy.
Although some kids prefer tight-fitting clothing, as well. Notice what your child seems to complain about or gravitate towards.
My son particularly dislikes jeans and any pants that have buttons or the hidden adjustable waistband. I know exactly what bothers him, so in his case, having elastic waist comfortable pants would be helpful.
What clothing you lean towards or avoid may be different for your child. Some families I’ve worked with have found it helpful to have their child go to the store and pick out the clothing, or even better try it on if they can manage that.
Sensory Friendly Clothing
Some kids with sensory issues with clothing definitely benefit from specially designed sensory socks, sensory underwear, or other clothing. If you’re looking to get some, here are some of our top picks:
- Seamless socks
- Tag less shirts
- Compression undershirt
- Seamless underwear for boys and girls
- Soft pants for boys and girls
Step #6: Set a time limit for challenging clothes
My son also hates button-down shirts. I ask him to wear these to church sometimes, which is challenging for him, but possible because I tell him he can take it off as soon as he gets home.
If it was an all out meltdown I wouldn’t “make him” wear this shirt, but sometimes kids don’t have an option, particularly if your kids want to wear no clothing at all.
Or, if it’s cold and they need to put a coat on or have to wear a uniform to school.
Whatever clothing is difficult you can help them by telling them how long they’ll need to keep a specific amount of clothing on. That could be, “As soon as you get home from school you can take off your uniform.” Or, “Once you’re in the car you can take the coat off.”
Step #7: Lower your expectations
Like I just mentioned in the church scenario, sometimes it’s expected that certain clothing should be worn in certain settings.
But if you’ve got a kid who simply hates wearing jeans, consider taking a step back and allowing them to not wear them until you work through some of the underlying issues for why they hate them so much.
Try cutting your child (and yourself) some slack where you can.
Step #8: Get more help
If you have tried these strategies and there is still more help needed, read on. Sometimes it will take more than one strategy coupled together, but here is hope!
How to Get Over Sensory Issues with Clothing
As an OT, I love strategies to help us get through challenges with our kids, like those listed above, but what I love even more is to get to the root of the problem.
Let’s uncover the best ways to help your child improve the way they process sensory information about their clothing, that decreases their tactile defensiveness.
1. Wilbarger Brushing Protocol – Frequently referred to as “brushing”, and as strange as it sounds, is taking a specific brush (looks like a surgical brush) and with a firm pressure, taking 2 minutes to firmly rub it all over your child’s back, arms, and legs.
While this is very easy, it’s copyright states that it can only be taught in person by an occupational therapist that’s been certified to do so.
The good news is the majority of pediatric OT’s have this certification or training. If your child is already in OT and they have sensory issues with clothing or other signs of tactile defensiveness, ask the OT about it!
It’s a powerful tool, but does need to be used consistently over 4-6 weeks, multiple times a day.
2. Sensory Bins – Again, this may sound surprising or even strange, but if your child regularly plays in different textures (think: sand, dry rice, shaving cream, finger paints, etc.) their tactile system can greatly improve and the sensory issues with clothing can all but disappear.
I’ve certainly seen this happen with my son over time!
And, I’m not the only one that sees these changes, check out what other parents are saying about sensory bins and the impact on their child’s tactile sensitivity:
This strategy, among many others, is extensively covered in our RISE With Sensory Online Program.
Head over to Sensory Bin Ideas to check out ways to start working on this today!
3. Repeated Exposure – Although we don’t want to force, it’s helpful to encourage them to try, especially if it’s a clothing that can’t be worked around.
Try small doses at home and build up your time.
4. Firm Pressure – When your child does push through their sensory issues with clothing and they are still a bit uncomfortable, a little bit of firm pressure goes a long way because for a lot of kids it’s very calming to their sensory system. You can give firm pressure by:
- Hugging them (if they like hugs!)
- Squeezing their hand or wrapping your hands around their forearms and giving a firm squeeze
- Pushing down on the tops of their shoulders
I like to use this before they get dressed, while they’re getting dressed, and afterwards if they seem dysregulated or upset still.
5. Use a Sensory Diet – Lots of times, if a child has sensory issues with clothing, they likely have some sensory issues in some other aspect of their life. My son is also very wild and while he’s sensitive to certain textures with his tactile system, he craves and seeks out other sensations like proprioceptive and vestibular input.
When I give him a chance to get his sensory system balanced through certain activities, his refusal to wear certain types of clothing diminishes.
Grab our free 25 sensory activities printable to download and/or print!
Finding the Clothing Solution That Works for Your Kid
Unfortunately, there is no immediate “fix” for kids with clothing sensory sensitivities. However, using a combination of all the strategies you just read about can help kids take baby steps toward tolerating different types of clothing.
Collaborating with your child, pulling out two of their most comfortable pants to choose from, helping put them on, and then firmly rubbing their legs right away can make all the difference.
Have frequent conversations and negotiations around which days your child will wear jeans. Together, search for the softest jeans in the drawer and pick out a shirt they really like. This can be a team effort.
However, believe me when I say that I know full well that this may be too big of a step for your child. For you, it may mean letting your child wear shorts, even in the winter, as you work through their sensory issues with clothing.
Or, your solution could be stocking their closet with tight performance fit clothing because it’s one less battle you have to have, and you notice that they’re way more chill when they have it on anyway.
Get More Help, NOW!
If you try all of the above steps and can’t seem to get past the daily battle about what clothes your child is going to wear, I’d recommend getting more help.
You can do this in a couple of ways. Google or ask around for sensory integration therapy in your area and schedule an evaluation with an occupational therapist.
Another option is to get support from learning online. We have a free sensory workshop that covers some key strategies from our RISE with Sensory program. Click here to get a spot so you can learn in a deeper way how to help your child today.
This can help you prevent or reduce therapy!
Get 8 Weeks of Summer Sensory Activities in our Giveaway!
We have a brand new 8 weeks of summer Happy Campers Sensory Activities.
Each week has several key sensory activities that are designed to stimulate your child’s senses, improve their sensory processing, and even decrease their tactile defensiveness!
All you have to do to win a free copy is leave a comment below about something you found helpful above OR a tip that’s been helpful getting your kid dressed.
Giveaway ends at midnight on Friday, June 2, and the winner will be announced here in the comments and emailed a copy over the weekend.
Let’s do this! Go ahead, leave your comment
More on Kid’s Sensory Issues
Epic Messy Play List that’s Sensory-filled, Inspiring, and Easy!
60 Printable Sensory Diet Cards for Kids to Thrive
100+ Awesome and Easy Sensory Diet Activities
8 Quick Tips for Kids that Hate Getting Sunscreen Put On
Did You Pin This?
So much info here, it’ll be hard to remember it all. Pin it to your parenting or sensory board for safe keeping:)
Alisha Grogan is a licensed occupational therapist and founder of Your Kid’s Table. She has over 18 years experience with expertise in sensory processing and feeding development in babies, toddlers, and children. Alisha also has 3 boys of her own at home. Learn more about her here.
Thank you so much for this article! I feel like someone finally understands my child. She has had sensory issues with clothing since she was about 2.5-3 years old. The doctor and OT have both told me that she doesn’t have a sensory issue and I understand why – one day she will refuse to wear something the next day she won’t. It started with socks. She had a tantrum every morning about her socks. She would try on everything in the drawer and have tears. I bought her seamless socks and she didn’t like those either so I was convinced she didn’t have an issue, but she was just picky. She wore dresses every day because she likes the loose fit from the ages of 3-6.5 years old. This ended up being an issue in the winters when she’d have to wear leggings under the dresses. One year she wore leggings, the next year she hated the feeling of leggings and would only wear tights (only certain tights that felt right). Again, the OT was convinced she didn’t have a sensory issue because no child with a sensory issue would ever wear tights. The following year, she hated tights and wore leggings every day. This spring she refused to wear anything but activewear shorts and shirts. I’m dreading when she’ll have to star wearing pants again this fall. Thank you for helping me understand her and for offering suggestions.
Oh it sounds like you guys have had a big challenge with clothing! We’re so glad that you found our article helpful. Hopefully some of the suggestions will be useful for your daughter!
Thank you for this, My son is 2.7 yrs old and he just wants to wear same 2-3 sets of clothes everyday (specifically old and night dress), just those 2-3 pairs of dresses that too with full hand and full pant. (He stopped wearing half pant and tshirt almost 4-5 months back) I know it sounds very small issue but it is really overwhelming for me nowadays. Everyday we are spending ½ hr after bath or whenever we are changing the clothes, he wants same clothes even when we are going out. He cannot stand to wear anything and cries so hard when we force him… this is going on since last 2-3 months. Can someone pls help, I am very tired of these things.
On top of that when wear what he wants, he keeps coming to me and tell me mamma I am wearing old clothes – night clothes, just to tease me and to get some sort of reaction from me.
Hey! That does sound really overwhelming! You might try to keep your response as neutral as possible when your son says those things (easier said than done, I’m sure!). Our article about tactile sensory sense might give you some ideas of more places to start!
Thank you for this article. My son has no other sensory sensitivities other than clothing. It started after potty training at 2.5 yrs old – his daycare would only allow crocs for easy clean-up and he refused to wear any other shoe after that. Then it was a problem with socks, then jeans, then cargo pants, then swim trunks. Now, at almost 5 years old, it is t-shirts. Every morning is a nightmare. He cannot stand to wear anything. Everything bothers him, he says is doesn’t hurt or tickle. I set a timer and tell him that if the clothes don’t feel fine after 2 minutes, he can remove them. That works almost always. If it is sensory, why is it that after a few minutes he says it no longer bothers him and he is comfortable? Tags were a huge issue before, now he can tolerate them and doesn’t ask me to cut them off. We have tried OT, skin brushing and sensory bins – nothing helps. Could this be behavioral, like his pediatrician suspects? Or OCD? His last therapist was not convinced it was SPD.
Thanks for reaching out! Difficulties with wearing clothes can be such a challenge! It can still be a sensory discomfort even if it is only initially a problem. You might try the brushing before putting on the clothes. That can help get him ready for clothes! We have a sensory diet template, you can try a few different ideas and see what works best! It would also be worth exploring other possible reasons for his sensitivity with his pedi!
I am so glad I came across this. My daughter is a very strong minded 2 year old we’ve always just considered her very defiant and strong willed. She’s always a wild child and prefers to to be unclothed but lately it has been getting a lot more than I just don’t want to wear clothes. She now refuses to wear a nappy which is fine as shes toilet trained just not at night which is a pain. She refuses to wear any knickers I’ve tried boxers, shorts everything but I can see the frustration in her face and I’ve noticed whenever she wears any bottoms she’s just so unbelievably uncomfortable because she’s constantly pulling at them as I can tell she doesn’t like the feeling of them touching her. She hates wearing pyjamas so I let her just wear nothing and I’m never sure if I’m just making it worse by giving in but I can’t stand watching her squirm it breaks my heart. As a baby she always hated onesies with feet or even socks so i always had to make sure they were footless onesies. She’s always loved gumboots so will happily wear just gumboots and that’s it!! The older she has gotten it’s like more items of clothing I’ve had to add to the list of not buying. She never has a problem with getting messy because that’s all she loves to do she will lather herself in cream, paint herself top to bottom make mud pies but the clothing issue has just always been a problem and I’ve just thought of her as a wild spirit until lately. I began to notice how uncomfortable she looked constantly pulling at her clothes like they’re suffocating her. She’s ok when it comes to going out she will put something on but will still be squirming non stop. As soon as we walk in the door everything comes off and she’s happy again. Just wish I could help her!!!
We’re so glad that you’re here! It can be a challenge when our kiddos refuse to wear clothing. You might try working with her to slowly overcome her tactile sensory discomfort. We love sensory bins for that! They’re pretty easy to put together and adding in some favorite toys can make them more appealing to kids. Check out our sensory bins post for lots of ideas!
Thank you so much for this write up. I’ve been beside myself for months! Since about 2 months after the birth of my second child my first, who is almost 5, started having issues with clothes. She has always been one that pulled her pants up as high as she could get them and I never really thought anything of it, but since the intense onset of her issues I think this has been a problem for a long time. She complains that her panties always feel like they are falling down (I promise they are not). I thought maybe she could t process the difference in the location of the panties waist band and the pants waist band. So I found panties with a higher rise. Then those went through the wash and shrunk a bit so then those felt like they were falling down. Also, all pants and shorts (no matter the cut, fabric, style) feel like they are falling down. We even tried overall shorts. She said she liked them and did well for a day, but now won’t even think of putting them on again. I recently bought new panties 1 size too big. She said they felt great! I said I’ll let them air dry so they won’t shrink…she has like 10 pair in her drawer that have never been worn and she has starte complaining about them now. EVERYYHING feels like it’s falling down. I’ve spent $50 on so many different socks. She has 3 pair that she calls “hard socks” that she is about to grow out of but they are the only ones she will wear – and of course I can’t but them from Hanes anymore and they don’t have anything similar. Everything is is “soft socks”. She used to love her shoes but now “they don’t feel right”. She asked me to cut all of her shirts short because they are too long…it’s like anything that sits lower than her pull up or panty line is too long and “will make her panties fall down”. She has 1 shirt that’s she calls her cozy shirt but it’s almost too small…and of course I can’t get another form Cat and a Jack. I’ve tried tighter fitting clothes and she doesn’t like that. About the July thing she will wear is a dress but she wants to take her panties off when she gets home.
She only has theses outward issues at home. Daycare says she never seems to have any issues.
Last ditch effort is high waisted panties from Hanna Andersson- fingers crossed.
We have reached out to an OT but they have a wait list and can’t see her for 3 months. 🙁 Her pediatrician said she has no concerns of autism or ADHD.
That sounds so frustrating for you! Trouble with clothing is a common problem for a lot of kids! Keep rotating the clothes she does wear. If she tolerates other clothing during daycare, then that is a great place to encourage her to wear new clothes. We also have a post that addresses tactile sensitivity. It also gives you some more ideas of how to decrease the sensitivity. I hope that helps get you started!
Hi my 11 year old started Middle school. She got her period and her body developed so she NEEDS to wear a bra. I have tried everything texture, style and color of training bra it’s going on 1 year now but she will not wear it. She is ADHD and ODD and has many sensory problems. She has been in therapy since she was 3 but right before COVID her therapist felt she had matured and was able to work through the problems on her own. She has always had sensory issues with Clothing, 2 years absolutely no shorts or t shirts, then 2 years shorts and t shirts, wore jeans And dresses all her life and now absolutely no dresses or jeans, she says the dresses are itchy no matter how soft and itch free we get them, she says the jeans are too tight, she loved the tights from Gap, OLd Navy, Justice etc now refuses to wear them so now we are in an only sweat pants and hoodie wearing phase, my concern is that Spring is here and summer is right around the corner and. She has had issues with fainting when she is is too overdressed for these seasons. I have tried all the above steps plus letting her to go stores and feeling out the textures. We just went to a mall this weekend for a big shopping trip and she came back with one cotton t shirt. Did I mention that she also hates bright colors now and only picks out dark colors. You can see my dilemma. HELP PLEASE.
So sorry to hear you/your daughter are going through this, we know how hard it can be! If you haven’t had an OT walk you through and complete brushing protocol, I’d reach out to her OT to see if they can review that with you to try. It can really be a powerful tool in moving forward with clothing.
Hope that helps!
When I was her age I was very similar. Ultimately tight fitting undershirts solved most of my issues. Since they were tight I never felt anything move over my skin like side seams or tags. They may also help get her wearing a bra. The camisoles I wear have a shelf bra in them. I also don’t like bras with a large piece of fabric between them. Best of luck to you.
I have a 3 yr old she will be 4 in march and she wont wear anything at all! Only if I day we are going to the park she will let me dress her but I have to go straight out the door or she will start to freak out she is autistic iam still learning about it she dont talk only once in a great while she will say sissy or mom or dad or shrek or onnah or 1 2 then when we get home she takes her cloths off she will sit in ice cold water and it dont bug her it’s so strange idk but she has to start preschool and iam so scared!
Thanks for reaching out and sharing your story. We understand how hard this can be! I’d follow with the steps in the article. However if you can find and OT close to you that could be really beneficial. They can go over the brushing protocol with you which can be extremely helpful for some kids with regards to clothing.
My daughter is seven and I started noticing her sensory issues with clothing when she was about 4 and we had to get clothes on and ready for preschool. She recently got diagnosed with ADHD also. It’s still to this day a struggle to get her to wear any clothes. She wears as little clothes as possible when she’s home. She most nights sleeps naked. She hasn’t wore underwear since she was 4 probably. She can’t wear any of the 50 types I’ve bought her to try, so I just gave up. She hates socks. She hates long sleeves shirts. She hates sweat pants now. One day she was ok with them, next day, after I bought three pairs for her, she hates them! Now that she has to wear a sports bra for cheer or for some shirts, that’s an issue. She hates jeans. Any pants with adjustable straps has always been an no. Sweaters are a no. Sweat shirts are a no. If jackets or anything are too tight around her wrist, it’s a no. Jackets are an ordeal also. She’d wear basketball shorts and tank tops with flip flops every day if I’d let her. Even in the snow! It all changes daily so it’s very frustrating. I try to buy her things I know she’s ok with. I try to be understanding and flexible, but I do some days force her to wear things. I have to! She wouldn’t leave the house if I didn’t.
Hi there. I’m a fully functioning adult with ADHD, sensory sensitivities, a husband of 12 years, and I work at an ivy league university. I thought I’d share what it’s like for me to wear things that trigger my sensitivities. I have physical and emotional reactions to specific fabrics and cuts of clothing. No crew necks, 3/4 sleeves, turtle necks, or dolman sleeves. Nothing tight. No thick seams touching skin. No wool, polyester, rayon, fleece, or any other fabric that can be itchy or not breathable. I stick to cotton, modal, silk, and sometimes linen if it’s soft enough. I wear a lot of blazers, cardigans, v-neck blouses and shells, knee length skirts (not pencil), slacks (with some stretch), and slouchy boyfriend cut jeans or sweatpants with v-neck t’s or sweatshirts on the weekend. I have a few 100% cotton sweaters I love. NO BUTTON DOWNS. God will understand if your kid can’s wear button downs. I stopped wearing them shortly after getting a job that required business formal attire. I can’t function when I wear them. Even custom made. I had a $200 button down I gave to a friend because I CANNOT WEAR THEM. When I put it on, all I can think about is how the collar touches my neck, the fron seam touches my stomach and chest. It’s awful. The custom shirt even had hidden buttons to make sure it didn’t pull or move weird over my chest. For neurotypical people, it would be like wearing clothes that are so tight you can barely get them on. I’m talking three sizes too small. Like they may rip a bit when you move. THAT is how difficult it is for some of us to wear certain fabrics or cuts of clothing. So, please don’t make your kiddos wear stuff they tell you bothers them. They want you to love them and be proud of them. Most of us want to fit in and look “normal”. And we can, but we need the support and ACCEPTANCE of our care takers to do that. I will be forever greatful for my folks letting me wear sweats 24/7 in elementary school. I did often add a tutu just for fun. You love your kids. Don’t make them wear button downs or whatever bothers them. You’re not spoiling them. You’re helping them. I found ways to look pretty awesome w/out triggering my sensitivities. You and your kids can, too.
So helpful to hear this, thank you for taking the time to share you feeling and experiences. Xx
So helpful thank you for your perspective. I’m just learning this thing I thought was just my 9-year-olds personality is actually pretty common. I’m glad that, for the most part, I haven’t forced her. Among many things, She will NOT wear jeans and she will just wear thicker soft leggings in the winter. There are many options out there clothing wise. I just take her with me shopping for her clothes. It’s fascinating. Before she even considers what a piece looks like, she walks down the isles putting her hand inside each piece! Checking if it’s “itchy” or at all a feeling she doesn’t like. She is also very particular that her hair be in a pony tail. I’m not sure if this is because of how it feels on her neck but that’s what I suspect.
It sounds like you’re on the right track with your daughter! We have another article on the tactile sense. It has some different activity ideas as well. It might be helpful to you!
Omg everything youhave said exactly describs what my 6 year old isgoing through. Its been about 3 months now and getting worse. The biggest problem is pants and socks. Shes had a few phases, ‘only ling sleeved t-shirts now only short sleeved ones’, but shes exactly in this stage with every item you described. Our biggest problem isits costing us a fortu e in clothes we buy and cant return and its stopping her from being able to take part in sports, that she wants to do.
Can anyone reccomend any knee high seamless socks for 6 year olds. I cant find any ‘sensory’ ones for her age. Also she wants waist high, long down the leg seamless boxers, size 116cm. The only thing i can find to compareis Ballet clothing, but its so expensive! Does anyone have the same issue/what clothing are you using?
I’d be so grateful for any advise/recommendations. 🙂
Our 10 year old son just hates wearing winter uniform to school. Hates wearing pants & longsleeve shirts however it’s a compulsory school uniform. How can we help him deal with this better – some mornings he refuses to go to school – also has to sleep with his wardrobe door slightly open & puts shorts & tshirt on the minute he gets home & wears shorts & t-shirt all year around.
Has been getting worse the older he gets. Please help suggest some ideas
Thanks for reaching out! I’d still utilize the suggestions in the post listed under “How to get over sensory issues with clothing” in looking at completing sensory bins, brushing protocol, deep pressure etc… It will take some trial and error and some time to find what will be helpful for him.
i found a wonderful undershirt on amazon that is completely seam free and my daughter wears it under everything during the winter. Wintertime seems to be our challenge. on amazon….
Nasse Girls Short Sleeve Modal Soft Tee Crew Neck T-Shirts /Free-Cut Undershirts (M, Light pink)
If it is a uniform you’re worried about, it may help to reassure your son that he’s allowed to take it off as soon as he gets home. I also recommend talking with his school about his sensory issues with the uniform and how it can be adjusted so he’s more comfortable and willing to attend school. Make sure to make it clear that his concerns are not from a place of rebellion, but rather a place of distress as wearing the uniform could be physically painful.
Ask your son what he thinks may help, and involve him in the process. This will make sure he knows you want to help, and no one knows how he feels better than him.
I am currently going through these issues with my almost 5 year old daughter. Every morning is a fight. The issues started when she was around 3 with pants. She would say they were not cozy or they were too tight. We would stretch them out & sort of make a game of it and for a time it worked. Then her sensitivities progressed to shoes, jackets, socks and as of last winter shirts too. I buy only super soft materials (polyester spandex blend usually) that are slightly big on her. Some days she’s ok or only whines about her socks or shoes. Other days nothing is “cozy” and she dissolves into tears. I can tell that she’s really pained by these sensitivities and I’m trying to work with her but it just doesn’t feel like anything works. I bought her a whole bunch of super soft dresses for when the weather warms up but she will still need to wear shorts underneath since still she doesn’t quite know how to wear a dress without flashing her underwear. Recently I think I’ve figured out that it’s the seam along the crotch area that bothers her the most, but it’s not possible to buy any type of bottom without some type of seam there. I’ll have her try new clothes on & she’ll say that she likes them, but then after removing the tags & washing them she refuses to wear it. I will have her pick out her own clothes, but even then she’s not happy. I’m honestly at my wits end. We’re spending a fortune on clothing that doesn’t get used & every morning is just absolutely draining. I’m hoping that she grows out of this phase or learns to cope with the issues better, but for now I don’t feel like I have any real options.
That sounds like clothing is such a challenge for your daughter! That can be so tough! You might try focusing on some tactile sensory activities like working with sensory bins. We also have a post on other ideas to address the tactile sensory system. It is full of ideas that might be helpful for you!
Great article! I’m a 60-year old guy and I suffered massively as a child because no-one understood what I felt when I had to wear the woolly trousers/pants that were common in those days.
In my case, nothing has changed; even the thought of having to wear jeans for example, can make me panic.
If I do have to wear trousers, they have to be thin cotton ones with no discernable seams, or anything that’s really soft, like fleece.
I’m really lucky that I’m wearing a uniform with cotton trousers that are just soft enough if I wash them a couple of times before wearing them when they’re new!
I’m really glad to see there’s more understanding about this issue nowadays.
I’m just coming to learn that my six year old sons issues with clothing are actually a real distressing thing. I’m interested to ask someone like you, who knows , could you describe why clothing is so bad ? I mean is it painful? His issues have exploded and now its impossible to get him dressed. . Any underwear feel like they are going up his bottom, cant find any to fit, socks that are a tiny bit baggy are a no go , t shirts feel too wide round the neck, trousers are a no go. Its hard to understand but hearing your perspective as an older man looking back really makes me think i need to really help him.
Thanks for reaching out and glad that you are trying to understand what he is going through. So the signals that he is receiving from the clothing is that they are extremely uncomfortable. It’s hard for him to focus on anything else because they can’t stop that uncomfortable feeling. I’d try to focus on the tips on the articles and see which ones may help!
I’m 11 and i have sensory issues with clothing and water, and i touch railings a lot. I wish i could go into more detail, but i was typing it detailed for about 20 minutes and the page reloaded. I don’t wear anything tight, short shorts, jeans, dresses, long sleeves or 3/4 sleeves or capris, and i hate getting wet, i like, freak out. I also dislike socks and underwear, but literally cannot wear clothes without them, it takes a few tries to get it right, and then I’m fine. I slo don’t like buttons or size adjusters, i do like to fidget with zippers and Velcro, but not on my clothes. If you want more details about how kids themselves feel with SPD, i can give you some more.
We’re so glad you reached out to us. It can be so tough to have these challenges. Many people share these same struggles, you’re not alone. It is always really helpful to hear from kids and adults who experience these challenges on a daily basis. It sounds like you’ve started to find some clothes that work for you. Thank for you sharing your experience with us.
Josie, I recently read this article and saw your question, “Could you describe why clothing is so bad ? I mean is it painful?” I would like to try to answer it. As a bit of background, I am 29 years old and had similar sensitivities to your son growing up. I still have some of them, though I have found work-arounds for most problems. Socks drove my parents nuts growing up. They were too tight, too loose, or the seam was in the wrong place. Shirts with tags were awful, underwear was a bit of a problem, and I hated bras with a passion (I stick with the sport variety whenever I can help it). I also am not a fan of shirts with tight sleeves. You asked if these things hurt. My personal answer to that is no. I would compare it to more of a mosquito bite. A really big, annoying mosquito bite. A bug bite doesn’t itch all the time, but if you brush it against something or accidentally scratch it, it suddenly comes to the front of your mind and then it won’t. Stop. Itching. And the more you worry at it, the worse it gets. If you can force yourself not to scratch and to focus on something else, it will eventually stop bothering you for a while. However, have you ever known a kid that has the will-power to stop thinking about or scratching at a bug bite? I certainly couldn’t. The thing about bug bites is the fact that you know it will disappear and that you only have to put up with it for a few days. If you knew that the mosquito bite would never disappear and that you would have to put up with it for the rest of your life, you would probably be in tears, too. Socks are, unfortunately, a “rest of your life” type of problem 🙂 Hopefully, this helps to understand your son a little more. Everyone’s mind is different, so his reactions may be different from mine, but perhaps this perspective will help you work with him a bit more. I hope all of this article’s tips helped, but I will add one more tip of my own for years down the road: adult clothes are so much more comfortable than clothes made for kids. Kids grow out of stuff in a year, so there is no point in making them the best fit, material, seams, etc. This won’t help you immediately, but keep it in mind for the future. Good luck!
Thank so much Sarah for sharing. It’s always great to hear the perspective of someone who’s been there!
Thank you so much for this. I’ve had concerns for sometime that my daughter has sensory issues around clothes. Your description of how it feels has really helped. I now know I need to adjust my approach to getting out of the door to school in the morning.
Great Kate! so happy you found our article!
Thank you so much for sharing with us! We know how hard that must of been for you, but glad you are able to find what makes you comfortable. And we are so happy there is more understand to help these kids manage and get through!
Wow, I’m a 64 year old woman who has always had sensory issues with clothing. I thought I was the only person with this! I’ve gotten better over the years, but since being isolated during the pandemic, I’ve noticed that wearing anything but baggy tee shirts and sweatpants makes me crazy. I can’t even stand to wear a bra! It’s embarrassing and I’ve been forcing myself to wear “real” clothing, but I’m not happy.
Thanks so much for sharing this with us. You’d be surprised how many adults share similar sensory struggles with clothing. The pandemic definitely has magnified some of these challenges. You certainly are not alone in that! We really appreciate hearing from you.
Thank you for taking time to write on this subject. My daughter (10) will only wear seamless, plain leggings. It took me many years of tantrums to finally realize that she wasn’t just being difficult. Now, I take her shopping at the local second hand store. Since many of the leggings have already been worn, they seem to be more comfortable for her. She has a routine for trying on leggings. After she puts them on, she touches her toes, sits criss-cross applesauce and then does a leg extension (basically the splits where she is standing with one foot on the ground while the other foot is above her head. She has Ehlors-Danlos Syndrome and is a dancer which makes her very flexible). Sometimes when she is getting dressed at home, she will end up not liking a pair or two but now she knows that she has a whole drawer full of other leggings that she knows will feel okay. Prior to going to the second hand store, I spent a ridiculous amount of money on trying to find clothing that she would wear! Shoes and socks are still an issue. It takes hours to find a pair of tennis shoes that feel okay for her to wear. She also has ADHD and we just recently started her on Strattera since she was beginning to have difficulty in school. She also had an IEP in Preschool for speech and OT as she had some stubborn primitive reflexes that did not want to go away.
Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. So glad that you have found what works for you and your daughter together!! Keep up the great work!
My son is almost 13 and ive fought this battle since he was a toddler it started as the shoes he will wear only high tops and they have to feel tight then the pants for the ages 3-10 he would only wear sweats and basket ball shorts now he will only wear jeans and the jeans have to feel a certain way its accompanies also some OCD where he only wants to wear that same pair of jeans everyday and ive battled and battled shirts cant be to small for xmas i bought him long sleeve shirts and his comment upon looking at them were hope the sleeves are not tight because they have the smaller opening at the wrist. He mentally gets so fixated on what he wants to wear and makes it almost impossible to accommodate ive said he cant be this picky its not realistic at all. He has been diagnosed with ADHD since age 4 and ive been very successful at raising him as if he does not have a learning disability hes done excellent in school until he hit 7th grade this year its been rough. But I literally loose sleep at night just worrying about what i will encounter in the morning will it go smooth or will we have a pile of clothes on the floor because nothing fits right. How do we approach this for a teen?
I totally get it and sorry you are left at night worrying about how the morning will go! The tips in the article on how to get over the sensitivity would still ring true for a teenager, the deep pressure activities would just look a little differently. The main thing that I’ve seen help with kids as mentioned in the article is the Wilbarger brushing protocol. I’d recommend seeking out an occupational therapy evaluation (looking for someone with more background in sensory integration can be helpful) but most all therapists are trained on the “brushing technique”. They can teach you how to complete this properly with demonstration and hands on practice. In the meantime I’d click through the sensory diet section to understand and see if there is anything that you can add to your morning routine.
Don’t force your child to wear anything…
Let him feel the textures of the clothes around the shop.
I have to feel all the clothes around the shop and if I don’t like the matieral I simply will not buy… Wearing an item of clothing that I can’t bare dose not just feel uncomfortable it burns my skin, it itches, its makes my teeth itch, the thought of it makes me feel physically sick!
Any article that tells you to pressure your kid in to wearing it should be throw out.
These fabrics physically hurt us! It is absolute tourture for us to endure it.
It dosnt get better in time.. I’ve had 28 years of time and I still feel the burning pain of cheap matieral.
Let him choose his own matierals. I love the look of jeans but I can’t stand the feel of them, they make me feel sick so I wear leggings under jeans and that way I can’t feel the jeans on my legs. Higher quality jeans do feel better but are alot more expensive… If there’s a top I really like but I can’t stand the matieral I put a think cotton or Jersey top under it…. The same with dresses… You can’t really do this in the middle of summer so compromise…
I think my daughter has sensory issues that may be related to early neglect by her biological parents. She came to live with me at 7 months and to my knowledge, she spent the first 7 months of her life strapped in a car seat most of the time. She has major meltdowns if there is any thing tight or restraining in her torso area. Lately it has been a battle of the bra. Almost every day for a month she has a meltdown about having to wear a bra. She says it hurts and itches and such. I have tried to be compassionate on her sensitivities in the past by allowing her to wear leggings, loose fitting clothes and such but unfortunately she is developing and a bra is non negotiable. She recently had her 10 yr old well check and I requested that an OT referral be made.
I was wandering if sensory therapy can help if even it is possibly a subconscious thing related to her being strapped in the car seat.
Thanks for reaching out and sharing your story with us! Yes, OT evaluation/treatment working on sensory processing can help! They should be able to help you navigate through the sensory processing and provide activities that can help. If you want to understand more about sensory processing, we do off a free workshop! You can Save Your Seat Here
Hi Shelly, I am 29 and I had/have sensory problems with tags, socks, tight clothing, etc. I hated bras, especially as a teen. Have you tried sports bras? They really helped me. They don’t have hooks, are completely stretchy, and don’t have stitching in all of the wrong and itchy places. If she needs more support, I had a gymnast friend who wore 2 on top of each other and said that it worked well. I always shop for shirts and dresses that fit over them and I rarely have a problem. Also, try buying normal bras from the women’s section instead of the girl’s if you aren’t already. Kid’s clothes aren’t made as well since they only need to last a year before you need a larger size. Adult bras are much more comfortable and seem to be made more like sport’s bra’s each year. I hope this helps. Good luck!
I am wondering if anyone has insight as to whether or not the issues with clothing sensitivity could be a result of other stressors? It seems like these issues are only sometimes for my son (6 1/2). It seems like it may be about him being anxious or worried about something else and then it manifests as him not liking how his clothing feels. It’s worse if he’s overtired, hungry, or worried about something at school. He can go long periods of time without any issues with his clothing at all. The issues with how his clothing feel seemed to have started at the same time he started having some issues at school last year with some unkind students and a teacher who didn’t see what was going on. I am going to try some of the sensory bin ideas for him, but also want to make sure that I may not be ignoring a deeper issue that may be bothering him, with the clothing sensitivity being a symptom not the cause.
Thanks for reaching out. A lot of times the sensory can “come out” due to anxiety, which is most likely why you are seeing that connection. I would still try the sensory activities as this should be helpful. I would also look into making sure there are not other stressors going on as well.
My daughter, 3 years, has always been complicated with clothes, but we’ve had two crisis, when we started potty training and now that we took her pacifier away. And also when she is overtired it is really difficult.
I went to an OT and she could not diagnose her with anything. So I think she is just more sensible.
Hello, I’m seeking information on a child I care for in my daycare centre whom has major sensitivity to clothes and we are fast approaching the winter months and am wondering how to go about winter clothes as we are on a more tighter time frame. I would appreciate any helpful info for this sweet little girl. Thank you
I’d try the suggestions in the article. This is often hard for kids with clothing sensitivity switching of months as the clothing is different. But the suggestions should help!