A lot of kids are particular about what kinds of clothing they wear. It could be their socks, pants, or a preference to wear no clothing at all! This is quite different than the child that refuses to wear anything other than blue or to always be in a dress because they like to twirl.
It is way more different than a style preference. Instead of that, it is about refusing to wear clothing based on the way it feels. If your child is demanding to wear or not wear certain clothing because of a seam, particular fit, or type of fabric, then it is likely because of their sensory system. Some might say they have sensory issues with clothing. Now don’t hit the panic button, because that sounds kind of scary, but actually, this is quite normal and doesn’t necessarily mean that your child has something “wrong” with them.
A child may have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), or other diagnoses like ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder. But, lots of kids have a sensory sensitivity to certain types of textures and they don’t have any diagnosis. Sensory issues with clothing are specifically related to our sense of touch or the tactile system. Most kids that have sensory issues with clothing will often react this way. In fact, it could even be full-out tantrums and total fits over a pair of socks.
As parents, it is frustrating and exhausting. It can also be hard to understand why they can’t just put the pants on. They may even force them to. But, these kids are literally yelling out because those pants might be downright painful. They are not being bad when they refuse to wear jeans, socks, or whatever, it is simply how their brain works, and they don’t quite know how to put that into words.
Many people don’t think much about the clothes they wear each day. We use clothing as a means of self-expression, but we often don’t put a lot of thought into the fabric and how it feels against our skin. However, the fabric is one of the most important parts of a sensory-sensitive child’s life or children with autism spectrum disorder’s life. When their clothes will be pressing and rubbing up against their sensitive skin all day, they need to have a pleasant tactile sensation.
Sensory-friendly clothes are clothes that have been designed specifically for those with sensory issues. For example, seamless socks are great for children who struggle with the feeling of a lumpy sock seam rubbing against their ankles. Clothes without raised elastic bands can be great for kids who don’t like the feeling of the bands pinching or rubbing. Compression t-shirts gently compress the body and can feel like a warm hug when a child is overwhelmed.
Compression clothing acts in the same way a weighted blanket does for autistic children and children with SPD. Weight is a way of grounding them and helping them to reconnect with the world around them. Compression clothing should never be so tight that it hurts or interferes with breathing. But it can help children in order to calm down and feel safe.
When children with autism spectrum disorder or SPD are exposed to sensory-friendly clothes, their stress levels often decrease from a lack of agitation caused by normal clothing. It can be exhausting to constantly be rearranging clothing or feeling it rub uncomfortably against parts of your body. Sensory overload is a lot to deal with on a day-to-day basis without bringing clothing into it for children with these kinds of conditions.
A big benefit of sensory-friendly clothing, especially compression clothing, is that it helps children to feel safe. Safety is one of the most important things to letting children have a healthy childhood and development. It is also extremely important when it comes to school. A child’s performance in school will be greatly increased when they are not constantly focused on the discomfort of their clothes or fiddling with their clothes in an attempt to make themselves more comfortable.
Children with autism spectrum disorder and children with SPD benefit from having their sensory issues accommodated. These accommodations work much better in order to reduce stress than trying to train children not to have sensory issues. The more comfortable children are in their skin, the more their mental health will improve and the better they will perform in all areas of their life.
It is important to get the child’s feedback on the clothes they wear. Sometimes children with autism spectrum and children with SPD are nonverbal, but they still visibly react to the feeling of different fabrics. Every person’s sensory issues are different. What one person may find to be a soothing texture, another may find it to be deeply uncomfortable. Figuring out which fabrics feel best is a case-by-case study.
What Should You Do If There Are Sensory Issues With Clothing?
Having this simple plan will give you a lot of peace and decrease the frustration level a few pegs because you will have a plan that you can start right any time you want.
- Try to understand – It sounds like a small detail, but don’t overlook this step because this is what helps you keep your sanity. When you find yourself getting frustrated or exhausted by your kid’s sensory issues with clothing, try to imagine how uncomfortable it must be for them. The added benefit to this is that over time your kid will notice your understanding and start to communicate better because they know you get it and are there for them.
- Don’t Force – It is very tempting, but forcing a pair of socks, pants, or fancy lacy dress can have a pretty detrimental effect on their sensory system, making matters only worse. They are going to fight you more because they will think you don’t get it.
- Allow for Extra Time – Kids’ sensory systems are always in fluctuation, which means that what bothers them one day might not the next. For some kids, it can be hard to predict when they are going to have a total meltdown over the jeans. Having that extra time to work through it might be exactly what you need.
- Offer Choices – As soon as kids feel like they have some control over what their body experiences, they are more willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone. If possible, give them two pairs of pants to choose from, ideally of different textures or fit. If they aren’t sure you can talk about the differences, “You can choose the black pants with no buttons, or these jeans with a zipper and snap. Which would you like to wear today?”
- Think Sensory-friendly Clothing – While every child is unique, by in large most sensory issues with clothing are because of seams in socks or pants, or a strong preference for comfortable clothing like sweatpants. Notice what your child seems to complain about or gravitate towards.
- Use a Time Limit – If you have a special outfit you want your child to wear, then telling them when they get to take it off will help.
- Get More Help – It is recommended a sensory evaluation with an occupational therapist, which could be tremendously helpful for you and your child.
How to Get Over Sensory Issues With Clothing
Let’s uncover the best ways in order to help your child improve the way they process sensory information about their clothing, which decreases their tactile defensiveness.
- Wilbarger Brushing Protocol – It is frequently referred to as “brushing” is taking a specific brush and with a firm pressure taking 2 minutes to firmly rub it all over your child’s back, arms, and legs. While this is very easy, it is copyright states that it can only be taught in person by an occupational therapist that’s been certified to do so. If your child is already in occupational therapy and they have sensory issues with clothing or other signs of tactile defensiveness, ask the occupational therapist about it!
- Sensory Bins – If your child regularly plays in different textures, the tactile system can greatly improve and the sensory issues with clothing can all but disappear. This certainly happens over time!
- Repeated Exposure – Although you don’t want to force, it is helpful to encourage them to try, especially if it is clothing that can’t be worked around. You may start trying small doses at home and build up your time.
- Firm Pressure – When your child does push through their sensory issues with clothing and they are still a bit uncomfortable, a little bit of firm pressure goes a long way because for a lot of kids it is very calming to their sensory system. You can give firm pressure by hugging them if they like hugs, squeezing their hand or wrapping your hands around their forearms and giving a firm squeeze; and pushing down on the tops of their shoulders.
- Use a Sensory Diet – Lots of times, if a child has sensory issues with clothing, they likely have some sensory issues in some other aspect of their life. If you give them a chance to get their sensory system balanced through certain activities, their refusal to wear certain types of clothing diminishes.
Finding the Solution That Works for You and Your Child With Sensory Problems
You may do have frequent conversations and negotiations around which days they will wear jeans. Together you also search for the softest jeans in their drawers and usually pick out a cloth they really like. Or, your solution could be stocking their closet with tight performance fit clothing because it is one less battle you have to have, and you notice that they are way more chill when they have it on anyways.
ABL Denim Jeans
Things that may seem small to many of us present a challenge to people with sensory sensitivities. For example, tags, buttons, and seams in clothing can be difficult to handle for many people with autism spectrum disorder and other disorders where sensory integration is often an issue.
That’s what makes ABL Denim’s line of pants so special. The jean company started in 2011, with a goal in mind: make jeans more comfortable and accessible to people with disabilities. When Stephanie Alves launched ABL Denim, the goal was to create a pair of inclusive jeans that would be comfortable enough for people with disabilities, specifically those using wheelchairs, to wear.
So the founder Stephanie Alves designs jeans that would be easier for people in wheelchairs in order to get on and off. Not too surprisingly, the public eventually began asking for sensory-friendly jeans. Now, ABL Denim has expanded its line for children with sensory processing disorders.
In one interview, Alves, the designer, said that parents of children with autism or sensory disorder kept asking if they made a jean for kids with sensory processing disorders. Because of the fact that they wanted a real jean but one that would be non-irritating, one that kids would not be trying to remove. Since she knew more about physical disabilities, she asked many parents for what the issues were so she could come up with a pant with solutions.
Once she knew what parents were looking for, Alves – a fashion designer with over 25 years of experience – got to work designing a comfortable pair of jeans that sensory-sensitive children would want to wear. As part of the design process, Alves’ model was a child with sensory sensitivities, allowing her to get the fit right and receive critical feedback.
And also she added that everyone is different from each other and you can’t cover everyone’s needs. They are a small business that needs the community’s support if they like the products in order to make all that they are requesting.
Several revisions later and ABL Denim had its first, kid-approved, sensory-sensitive design ready for market. The jeans, which feature a soft, sweatshirt-like denim material, are unisex and come in children sizes 6 to 20. The kid-tested, kid-approved sensory-friendly jeans are fashioned from super-soft, sweatpants-like denim and have no harsh seams, buttons, zippers, or rivets. But they are still real jeans that look totally normal.
What makes the jeans sensory-sensitive, however, is their lack of harsh inside seams and exclusion of zippers and rivets. The jeans also include an elastic waistband, sewn on the outside of the pants for maximum comfort, allowing the jeans to be easily be pulled on and off.
In addition to creating standard kids jeans, ABL Denim also offers shorts, boardshorts, and denim leggings, as well as jeans for adults and children who use wheelchairs. Children’s items range from $32 to $39 for a pair of jeans. On their website, you can find full-length pants, broad shorts, and shorts in this accommodating design.
Seeing the success and need for clothing lines like ABL Denim, Alves encourages other designers in order to create more inclusive fashion. She said to others that there are so many different garments that people want, designers should pick a category that they know how to produce. Otherwise, they don’t look like the same caliber as mainstream brands.
Sadly, the company hasn’t yet come out with an adult version of these particular sensory-friendly jeans, but they do have other styles available in adult sizes. One of which can also be good for people with an autism spectrum disorder. Hopefully, that means we will see grown-up sizes in the near future, too!
ABL DENIM Sweatpant – Men $ – 82
Size varies from S to XXL. It looks like jeans because of the fabric and finish but feels like a sweatpant. It has an elastic waist with drawstring. Back is much higher than the front which provides to accommodate people in wheelchairs. This pant can also work for those prone to pressure sores, for example, people with an autism spectrum disorder. These are great for people without mobility challenges too, who just want more coverage on the posterior.
ABL DENIM Sweatpant – Women – $ 62
Sizes vary from S to XL. These are with elastic waist and drawstring looks a jean because of the fabric and finish. Back is much higher than the front also to accommodate people in wheelchairs. This pant can also work for those prone to pressure sores, for example, people with an autism spectrum disorder. They are great for people without mobility challenges that just want more coverage on the seat.
ABL DENIM Adaptive Legging Light Stretch Denim – Women – $ 46
There are two different sizes which are XS and S. These are clean yoga pants look without pockets. They have an adaptive high back waist that prevents downward slipping for wheelchair users. Pull-on, all-around elastic waist for easy accessibility for people lacking in fine motor skills. The reverse waistband is non-irritating for some women and children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Leg opening slim yet stretchy enough to get feet through. These are soft, lightweight, and stretch denim.
ABL DENIM Sensory Jean – $ 39
Sizes vary from 6 to 20. Sensory Jean is made for kids with sensory integration disorder and autism spectrum disorder who are also sensitive. Elastic waistband is sewn inside-out; no harsh seams inside. There is no metal, no zipper or rivets. Special authentic denim feels like a knit. Back is higher than the front to also accommodate wheelchair users.
ABL DENIM Sensory Shorts – $ 32
Sizes vary from 6 to 20. Sensory shorts are made for children with sensory integration disorder and an autism spectrum disorder. Elastic waistband is sewn inside-out; no harsh seams inside. There is no metal which means no zipper or rivets. Special authentic denim feels like a knit. Back is higher than the front to also accommodate wheelchair users.
Autism Jeans Resource – Sensory-Friendly Jeans (NBZ)
- They are very soft, stretchy, and sensory-friendly jeans and pants.
- There is a sensory-aiding elastic waistband for easy pull-on dressing.
- Every pair has no buttons, zippers, or tags.
- Every pair is equipped with a mock fly and belt loops.
- There are several fashionable denim styles available that you can choose.
- There are kaki and black dress pants for school, formal and working purposes.
- They are easy to wear and great looking adaptive pants and jeans!
- Every purchase will have the opportunity to benefit autism causes through their Social Good Program.
“There is a young man who has Down Syndrome and autism spectrum disorder who is very funny, very talented and very kind. He has not worn jeans since he outgrew his pull-up jeans. The NBZ autism jeans allow that young man to wear jeans like many of his classmates. They would give him a sense of independence while getting to wear jeans again. No anxiety when using the bathroom either. The big plus is these sensory-friendly jeans look like ‘typical’ jeans and he will surely rock them!”
NBZ Brand clothing offers fashionable and comfortable no button jeans and pants that fit great! Every pair of our pull up denim jeans and pants feel great and are made from quality fabric that is soft and stretchy. When you buy a pair of NBZ zipperless jeans and pants, not only do you get a great product that will make your life easier, but you help out a great cause! For every three pairs of pants they sell, they are able to donate a pair to a person living with disabilities. Their no button jeans and pants come in denim, khaki, and black dress pants.
NBZ Boys Elastic Waist Jeans – $54.95
They are for sale. Size varies from 8 to 18. They are durable and fit great! They are perfect for those who are active. Plus, they will look good for any occasion. They have no buttons, zipper or tags. They also have a mock fly, full elastic waistband and the fabrics are soft, stretchy, and sensory-friendly. These are the most comfortable jeans your children will own. At the same time, they help make dressing easier. By being easy to wear, sensory-friendly clothing, they provide a truly inclusive clothing option and are a great special needs resource for fashionable adaptive wear.
NBZ Boys Style Dress Pants – $44.95
Size varies from 8 to 18. They are great looking, yet durable. They have front side pockets and on the back are slit pockets with a button. They are great for special occasions or school uniforms. NBZ Brand jeans and dress pants have no front button, zipper or tags. They do have a mock fly, full elastic waistband and the fabrics are soft and stretchy. They offer style and comfort and, at the same time, help make dressing easier. It serves as a great adaptive boys’ clothing resource. Special needs parents and families looking for children’s formal wear should look no further for easy wear boys dress pants.
Are you looking for a pair of pants with ultimate comfort that you can confidently wear out of the house? Then, you have come to the right place! Their no button jeans feature fully elastic waistband, no front buttons, zipperless, mock fly and belt loops.
Whoever said a pair of no button jeans had to look any different from other jeans or pants? At NBZ Apparel, they believe in providing comfort and easy wearing without sacrificing style.
- There are several styles of zipperless jeans and pants.
- They are available in six great colors.
- They are modern cut and fit.
Online Stores to Purchase Sensory Friendly Clothing
Children with autism spectrum disorder and sensory challenges have many enemies when it comes to clothing. Clothing tags exposed elastic bands, and itchy socks are just some of the challenges facing children with special needs. As more parents start requesting sensory-friendly clothing more stores will start to carry these products.
It focuses on one product: Bathing suits for men and boys with no lining or net. For many, the lining in bathing suits can cause skin irritation and chaff. It can be very difficult for children with autism spectrum or sensory challenges to enjoy swimming when the lining rubs against the skin. Choose from three different fashions with more being added soon.
It founded in 2007 addresses the sensory clothing needs of more than 25% of American children. This population is growing 15% annually. It offers hundreds of different sensory-friendly items from seamless socks to soft denim. All Soft clothing is made from organic cotton, non-toxic dyes, tagless labels, and flat seams.
It offers apparel and products with special features including soft and tactile pleasing fabrics, no tags and inverted seams for comfort. There are also weighted clothing, compression clothing, and weighted vests.
Kozie Cloths – Girl’s Elastic Waist Corduroy Pants Adaptive for Special Needs/Helps Sensory Processing Issues – Grace – $18.00
There are two soft pockets inside the pant across the lap. Weights can be added if desired. Weights provide proprioceptive deep touch feedback shown to calm, help organize, and improve alertness. The pockets without weights are an additional soft fabric across the lap adding warmth. No tags to limit sensory sensitivity and therefore calms for all garments. Fully elasticized waistband for easy on and off enhancing dressing independence.
Kozie Cloths – Unisex Sensory Compression Pants – Kid’s Therapeutic Inner or Outer Garment – $38.00
Children along with the autism spectrum disorder, those with sensory sensitivity or with Sensory Processing Disorders, ADHD, and many other children with different neurological challenges often benefit and respond well to deep pressure input. These stylish and fun compression pants are made of comfy 4-way stretch fabric which allows the child to work or play creatively and actively. This can comfortably be worn as an outer or inner garment providing deep pressure sensory input. This is a perfect match for compression shirts or can be worn with any garment.
Compression increases endorphin levels and decreases heart rate and blood pressure. Deep touch pressure causes the release of both serotonin and dopamine in the brain. These are “happy ” neurotransmitters and produce a feeling of calm. There are different colors available which are navy, steel, black, grey and blush pink.
Smart Knit Kids
It focuses on seamless socks, underwear, and t-shirts for boys and girls. Their patented seamless socks are perfect for children experiencing sensory processing differences, hypersensitivity or who simply can’t stand annoying seams! They are free of any seams, reduce wrinkling and bunching in the shoe, unique, no heel design and comfortable non-binding top.
It offers products in over 20 categories for occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, educators, and parents. In their clothing category, there are sensory smart vests, shirts, socks, and pants that are seamless, soft cotton and designed for those with sensory sensitivities. You can also find compression shirts and other comfortable clothing with weight options.
Although not designed specifically for children with a special need, it creates all their fabrications and styles based on the idea that children should feel unrestricted by their clothing. All clothing is made from the softest bamboo cotton. They offer fashionable styles and a great selection of dresses, pants, tights, underwear, leggings, pajamas and more.
Kickee Pants – Kid’s Straight Leg Jean in Dark Wash with Dusty Sky – $40.00
These incredibly comfy jeans come from a marriage of two perfect fabrics which are stretchy Bamboo fabric and plush cotton. The result is soft and stretchy jeans that are as comfortable as it is tough. You can choose from a draw-cord stretch waist or a button-up, zippered waistband, and fitted or straight leg.
Kickee Pants – Toddler Stretch Waist Jean in Dark Wash with Dusty Sky – $38.00
Fun And Function
It offers hundreds of products for special needs parents and therapists. In their clothing section, you can find super soft, seamless, tagless dresses, leggings, pants tees and socks that are designed for children with sensory issues. It also has a compression vest section with various graphics printed on them.
World’s Softest Socks
It makes over 40 different soft and comfortable socks for men and women. This site is great for older individuals who are sensory sensitive and need soft socks. You can choose from the low cut, quarter, mini crew, over the calf and more. There is sure to be a soft sock to fit your needs.