Clothing allows us to express ourselves; from the material to the fit to the colors we choose, how we dress can play a part in how we can present ourselves to the world.
All children deserve to express who they are in this way, but it becomes challenging when purchasing clothing is more complex than simply going to the mall.
Autism friendly clothing
For many children with autism, clothing can be irritating and overstimulating. Whether from the painful tags, bulk seams, or stiff fabric, getting dressed can quickly become the worst part of the day.
Whether from the painful tags, bulk seams, or stiff fabric, getting dressed can quickly become the worst part of the day.
But they don't have to be!
Autism and sensory-friendly clothing options exist to help your child.
Not only are they free of sensory irritants, but they can also help children regulate and avoid overstimulation throughout the day.
What is sensory friendly clothing?
Sensory-friendly means that the clothes
● Have NO tags
● Are made with flat seams that do not rub inside
● Are made of soft knit fabrics
... just to start!
Sensory clothing can also help with sensory overload
Other sensory-friendly clothes offer a wide variety of other elements that make the pieces more comfortable to wear.
They could include the following:
● Magnetic closures, which offer a softer closure than zippers and snaps that rub against the skin
● Soft elastic waistbands that are stitched down so they don't dig into the skin or roll
● Stitched down pockets so the pocket bag doesn't bunch up
Even if your child doesn't appear to need these things, it doesn't mean that they won't help. But this isn't where autism-friendly clothing should end.
Sensory-friendly helps eliminate the painful and bothersome elements of clothes that can dis-regulate children.
Autism-friendly clothing can go beyond this and actually help your child regulate their bodies and meet their sensory needs throughout the day wherever they are.
How autism clothing can help your child regulate
Autism clothing helps regulate children by utilizing sensory regulation knowledge and incorporating tools that occupational therapists and special education specialists use every day.
For example, research has shown that many sensory-seekers feel comforted by proprioceptive input. This can be given by crashing, squeezes, and compression. These give sensory input that help calm the body and nervous system, just like Temple Grandin's squeeze machine.
Every child has different sensory needs and preferences, and it may take time and trials of different solutions to determine what works best for your child.
The great thing about a built-in shirt means you don’t need to remember one more thing to grab before leaving home, and you can avoid being caught out without it.
Sensory clothing can also help with sensory overload. From loud sounds to bright lights and crowded spaces, it's easy for kids to get overstimulated quickly.
Clothing can help by offering a sound-reducing hood and eye mask that can pull down and create a built-in sensory break wherever they are. It's a subtle, easy way to help your child wherever they are, whether in the car, the store, in class, or at home.
Every child has different sensory needs and preferences, and it may take time and trials of different solutions to determine what works best for your child. Never hesitate to consult the founders of these companies, your child's therapists and teachers, or other parents because information is key.
Everyone is here to support you and help set your child up for success!
Julia is a fashion designer and the founder of Sense-ational You, a neurodivergent fashion brand that creates clothing designed for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. Sense-ational You aims to bring recognition and acceptance of this group into the fashion industry.