Getting My Tactile Defensive Daughter To Wear Long Sleeves

by Melanie


My 2.5-year-old daughter was recently diagnosed with SPD, and seems to mainly be oversensitive to touch and sound. We live in the Chicago area and it's starting to get cold out. She refuses to wear long sleeves or a coat, and I'm not sure what to do. If we try to force her to wear them, she has a meltdown. Please help with any suggestions!!!


This will improve through OT. I know that doesn't solve the problem TODAY, but I want you to have hope... this will not go on forever. Will she always have a "preference" for short sleeves? Maybe. But, with sensory integrative OT, she will be willing and able to tolerate long sleeves with time.

The most successful technique/therapy for her tactile defensiveness is the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol or the Burpee Method of buzzing and brushing. Is your daughter's OT trained in either of these? The Wilbarger Brushing Protocol is a very common treatment used in OT for SPD, especially hypersensitivity to touch sensations. I would be leery of an OT who is not trained in this... so make sure yours is, OK? Chances are, this will begin soon if you are just starting therapy.

Have you tried a variety of materials/fabrics? Sometimes some work better than others.

Fleece vs. cotton vs. lycra etc. ?

Have you tried tighter vs. looser fitting? Believe it or not sometimes the tighter the fit, the better as it gives even deep pressure calming/regulating input (for example, a lycra/spandex shirt that is tight to her body). Some though will avoid tightness around the neck or wrists.

Have you tried tons of fabric softener? Soak her clothes in it as much as possible... many respond very well to this.

Have you tried second-hand/used clothes. They tend to be more comfortable when "broken in".

Just make sure your OT will be using SI theories and treatment to address the underlying defensiveness. To make sure you have the best OT to treat her SPD, please read The SPD Companion--- Issue #020 Are You Ready For Sensory Integrative OT... What You Need To Know Before Starting.

Also, make sure you follow through with any home programs they suggest, consistently. Know the first few weeks and months will be the most intense, but will become less so over time as positive changes happen.

Because you have pursued and received this diagnosis so early in her life, know that the charges should happen fairly quickly. The earlier we identify and treat SPD, the 'easier' it is for her neurological system to change.

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Sep 11, 2009
Hates clothes/shoes
by: Anonymous

My daughter started out with just s sensitivity to her shoes which started suddenly after entering preschool/daycare. Over the last couple of years it has worsened every school year. Last winter she would only wear one of the coats I bought her and NO long sleeves. Nothing with seams across her belly, so No dresses. HATES socks.

Now she is even starting to complain about cotton t-shirts. She says some of them have too many lines in them. She will only wear one nightgown. A few pairs of the cotton shorts she has from the year before. Luckily she is not growing out of them very fast. I bought Lands End water shoes for her to wear to school without socks until the cold sets in. She would only wear sweatpants last winter but after a few washes I had to scrape the fuzz balls out twice before she would put them on.

I don't know what is in store for us this winter. OT and Brush Therapy has not really helped. I have heard Zoloft might but am scared of the side effects due to her having a Congenital Heart Defect. I need some other alternative. If you have ANY suggestions PLEASE let me know.

Aug 29, 2009
wont wear a sweater or long sleeved shirts
by: Zay

My son diagnosed with PDD will wear a jacket but not long sleeved shirts. now he is starting to refuse wearing long pants. We live in canada and winter is coming. I dont know what to do. the problem is that he will not even try the long sleeved shirts. the minute he sees them being brought to him, he says, :"no" if i force it on him or put it on for him at night while sleeping, the takes it off the shirt the minute he wakes up. He hates sweaters too. what can I do


Jul 30, 2009
We use a blanket!
by: Anonymous

My 3 year old did the same thing! I felt like everyone was staring at me as if I were a horrible mother! I would wrap a blanket around her instead of fighting with a jacket. Also she wouldn't wear socks and would only wear crocs. So mid winter here she is with no socks on, crocs and no coat. She would wear a hat from time to time and gloves...just no coat or socks!

Jan 22, 2009
Try a shaw or blanket
by: Anonymous

My daughter is 9 and freezes in the winter time, suffering through the cold is minor compared to wearing a coat!

I have purchased several shawls, she will wear them most of the time. I also keep a blanket in the car so I can put it over. Sometimes she will use the blanket some times she will not. Also try vest, at least you can keep the core of her body warm.

The shawl seems to be the best solution I have found. I found one she likes now that is thick fleece with a hood.

I am a single dad and people always assume that, I don't now how to dress my daughter. If they only knew the money and effort I have spent attempting to keep my daughter warmly dressed.

A couple other items that I use are fur-line Crocs.

Lose fitting pants under long sleeve dresses, sometimes just long sleeve dresses. My daughter will not wear a long sleeve dress, but she will wear soft long sleeve dresses. Good luck and hang it there.

Dec 06, 2008
brushing technique
by: Anonymous

Hi, my 5 year old son saw an OT who used the brushing technique; we saw results very quickly. He would bring his brush and ask us to do it for him. It is hard to do so often, but it's well worth it.

He doesn't like jackets either, so I let him just put the hood on his head and let the jacket hang off while we're getting to the car or running outside for a minute... Otherwise, the really soft material, warmed by an iron/dryer, seems to be tolerable.

Nov 05, 2007
Responses to your questions
by: Melanie

Thanks so much for your response. Yes, our OT is trained in the brushing technique. We've been doing it, but I have to admit we've been inconsistent with it. As for the shirts, we've tried a few different kinds of fabrics, but not the lycra (tight-fitting). I'm going to try that. I haven't tried the fabric softener - I'll try that too - thanks. Some of her clothes are hand-me-downs from her cousin. I'll see if she reacts differently to those than to the new ones.

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