Dressing Kids for Success with Sensory Processing Disorder

Dressing Kids for Success with Sensory Processing Disorder - SavvyMom

Getting kids dressed in the morning can feel like a battle. When your child has Sensory Processing Disorder, this feeling intensifies.

Andria Anderson, an occupational therapist from Collective Therapy and advocate for Peekaboo Beans, provided some insight into this condition and how to accommodate a child who experiences sensory symptoms.

As humans we take in sensory stimulation into our brains and we process it, make sense of it, and then respond appropriately. Someone who struggles with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) has difficulty processing sensory information. SPD means they are either overly sensitive or experience sensation less than most people.

For kids who are over-sensitive to light or sound, what might seem like ordinary stimuli can be too much for the brain to process. Similarly, kids with high sensitivity to touch can have big reactions when overwhelmed. The way they process sensory information is different and can be anxiety provoking.

Studies found on SPDstar.org indicate 5-16% of kids exhibit symptoms of SPD (which may include picky eating, sensitivity to certain clothing, and multisensory challenges.) These symptoms can make dressing a challenge, but Andria has tips to help make that process as painless as possible.

  • Select soft fabrics. Ideally you want something that feels like it’s been worn a lot, so consider washing clothing 4 or 5 times before presenting it to your child.
  • Limit small parts like zippers and tags (particularly tags in the back)
  • Be mindful of seams, they can be distracting. Seamless socks and underwear are particularly good options for kids with SPD.
  • Watch for loose threads.
  • Select a size that keeps fabric loose to your child’s body
  • If your child likes the cut and fit of something at a particular store, buy it in a bunch of different colours so you are stocked up with options that you know will work

When it comes to shopping for clothes for your child with SPD, it pays to be a clothing detective. Find out what works, what doesn’t, and apply those ‘clues’ to new purchases. Think about their preferences for things like buttons, zippers, and waistbands. Kids don’t always know what’s bugging them. As a parent, it’s important to deduce what is wrong so you can help them problem solve and learn how to accommodate themselves as adults.

Once you pick the clothing, the dressing process can make a difference.

  • Make the routine predictable. It’s less stressful if they know what to expect.
  • Try using pictures to sequence your routine. Children who can’t read yet can follow along with images.
  • Match the clothes to your child’s activities for the day. Accommodate clothing choices to allow for stressors and preferences. Let them re-wear something they find comforting if it’s going to be a busy or frustrating day.
  • Pick your battles. If your kid is stuck on a particular article of clothing, make a schedule and let them know when they can wear that preferred thing again.

Getting out the door on time can be a challenge for any parent. Armed with these tips, you should be able to call a truce in the ‘daily dressing battle’ once and for all.


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