Daily Clothing Struggles

by Angela
(Atlanta, GA)

My 7 year old daughter was diagnosed with SPD at age 4. We have worked with her and have made major strides in a lot of her sensory areas and behaviors with the exception of one... clothing!

Let me first start by saying all her clothing is soft cotton knit, no buttons, snaps, zippers... and very loose. Still --- it needs to be 'stretched' every morning... and even then it's still to tight if it touches her. I've explained that clothing has to touch or it will fall off. I'm beginning to think that the loose clothing rubbing against her actually is more problematic than if it were actually 'fitted', but she won't wear anything fitted.

Getting dressed in the morning sometimes takes over an hour and leads us both to exhaustion and fights (I know that I need to find a better way). We also have sock and shoe issues (and she can only wear one pair of shoes -- but she's almost grown out of those.) Knit, yoga, fold over waist, flowy type of gaucho pants seem to do the best but are hard to find. I have a hard time with shirts (the sleeves), panties, socks, and shoes.

Any suggestions??? Either for clothes, or ideas on how to help her not have so much pain when dressing? She literally screams and says that she feels like she is burning, and being squeezed. I'm so exhausted, and now my 2 year old is imitating the behavior.

The SPD Help Line Answers

Before I point you to some resources, I am wondering a few things...

Is your current OT specifically treating the tactile defensiveness?? If so, what is she doing to address it? Has anything helped in the past? What is/isn't working now? Being worked on now? Is your OT specifically trained and educated in sensory processing disorders and sensory integrative therapy

treatment and therapy? I am curious why this is not being addressed.

While I await your answers... here are some helpful resources for you, and anyone else reading this with similar problems. Read these and follow links within these articles for a comprehensive look at how to help.

The following articles and/or other help line submissions may help...

Clothing Doesn't Feel Good

Touch Sensitivity

One particular newsletter I wrote may help too... Using SI Theory To Help Solve Problems At Home newsletter. Here are some of the suggestions you will find there:

Child is bothered by the feel of some clothes.

1. Use a body suit (or compression garments) under clothes.

2. Provide socks that are tight around the ankle.

3. Wear silk/lycra underclothes.

4. Seamless socks (or turn socks inside out).

5. Tagless pants, shirts, and underwear.

6. Get used clothes at a second hand store... they are usually well broken in and softer.

7. Use plenty of fabric softener when washing clothes.

What I would further suggest is talking to your OT about using the Wilbarger Deep Pressure Proprioceptive Technique For Sensory Defensiveness to address the underlying problem for your daugheter. See if she thinks this is appropriate and/or will work for your little girl! It's definitely worth a shot! She obviously needs some additional therapy and help around this issue.

Hopefully, the above articles will help AND, perhaps some compression clothes if the OT thinks this will help...compression shirt (you can choose other sizes that what you see here... just some ideas for what I am talking about). Seamless socks also help many kids. Lastly, ask the OT for specific proprioceptive activities that may help... massages, rolling a ball on her before getting dressed, etc.

Anyone else have any ideas? I KNOW many of you have walked this road! We would love to hear from YOU too.

Take good care.
Michele Mitchell

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Jan 18, 2012
Wish all of you good luck!!
by: G H

Well I am much older than 26, but I still have the daily clothes struggle. For me it is very real, and has never gone away. A simple thing as a shirt can literally turn into an electric chair when I put it on. It is a daily struggle to test and remind myself of my limits.

Reading this website helps. Now I know there are others like me, but it is not the same for everyone. It seems we have to find our own solution (fabric softener does NOT help me at all), and nobody knows exactly why.

Sep 27, 2008
you are not alone...
by: Anonymous

I feel your pain. My eight year old had the sock, tag issues and we get her adjustable waist pants and they have to be the tightest they can be on her. The elastic is pulled so tight is makes marks on her skin. She also had to have her shoes tied so tight I am afraid it will cut off her circulation. it takes two of us to tie her shoes, me to tie and her to hold the laces tight. Every morning is a struggle because one off piece of clothing can add 10 minutes or so to the routine.

I used to think these were quirks of hers, but now I see we have a real problem here. We go for her 8 year check up next month and we need to address this! I wish you well and just realize you are not alone. Good luck!

Feb 16, 2008
That really stinks
by: Anonymous

I'm 26 and have had that problem my whole life. It really stinks. As a kid I'd wear leotards and bathing suits under my clothes. It gets worse for me the older I get. But, I never had OT as a kid.

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