Winter dressing can be a challenge for many of our students with sensory sensitivities. Clothing can provide varied levels of sensory input. Some students may prefer the feeling of heavy clothing that is loose, while others may prefer lightweight clothing that is tight. Some children will not like wearing a hood; however, they may wear a tighter fitting hat. Some children may tolerate snow pants while others will not like the bulkiness. Trial and error are required in order to find what works best for your child.
Choosing clothing in your child’s favorite color, decorated with a favorite character can be helpful in gaining their interest in wearing it. Fleece is usually a good choice since it is softer than acrylic and wool and will likely be better tolerated. For those who cannot tolerate loose layers moving against their skin, try putting a snug shirt with leggings or pajamas under their clothing. Furthermore, a hooded sweatshirt can provide input when the hood is put on and hands are put in the pocket/s. A child who is tactile defensive may get upset if rain or snow fall directly on his/her head. The appropriate hat or hood can be very important to preventing such meltdowns.
Turtlenecks may be uncomfortable for many kids. Seamless socks and tights are available at Stride Rite and online retailers, but wearing socks inside out is an easy option. Many kids dislike the rougher texture of jeans, and may be bothered by the fastener/fly rubbing against their skin. While sweatpants are often the pants of choice, if dressier pants are needed, try khaki or cargo pants from Lands’ End, Old Navy or L.L. Bean, that have elastic waistbands. Check for elastic at the ankles/wrists, tight collars, or waistbands that are not covered with material. Underwear with comfortable waistbands (covered in cotton), can be found at www.sensorycomfort.com.
Massaging your child’s hands, head and feet before putting on mittens/gloves, a hat and boots, can be helpful. After a shower or bath, apply lotion to your child’s skin to prevent it from becoming dry and itchy.
Overheating indoors can happen very quickly, so delay zippering up and putting on hats and gloves until heading out the door. Similarly, when your child comes indoors, remove unnecessary layers to prevent overheating. Your child may need to practice wearing a new jacket or coat before he/she is willing to wear it for longer periods. Short, timed practice sessions that increase in duration and/or accessories (hat/mittens/gloves/boots) may be needed to help with the transition in clothing. For some children, it helps to begin weeks in advance while others may only need a few days.
Also keep in mind that some children are hyposensitive to temperature and don’t respond to being too cold. To remain safe from frostbite, check your child’s hands, ears, nose and feet frequently when spending time outdoors.
However your child likes to dress, have fun and enjoy the winter weather because spring is right around the corner!
Raising a Sensory Smart Child (Peske, 2009)