Sensory Processing Disorder Clothing Strategies

Sensory clothing sensitivities were by far the most challenging part of raising children for me. Each day brought a new clothing struggle. What worked one day, didn't work the next day. It was always changing. 

I would sit up all night waiting for the same laundry to wash and dry every single day as that is all she would wear. My mornings before school were a nightmare. 

I too have struggled with sensory tactile defensiveness my whole life. When your children are having a meltdown over socks, underwear, pants or any other piece of clothing and you feel like they are just giving you a hard time on purpose, they're not. 

It truly does feel awful. They are not being stubborn or difficult for you to ruin your morning; they are really having a difficult time. It is so important to know that this is out of your child's control. 

I want to give you some tips and ideas to try that assisted me when I was parenting a tactile defensive child. I spent a huge amount of money on clothing that piled up so high that my daughter wouldn't wear. 

Clothing Tips & Ideas To Assist You With Your Sensory Sensitive Child

1. Try clothing on for 10 minutes before purchasing. Usually within 10 minutes I could see very clearly if my daughter would be able to tolerate that piece of clothing. If it passed the 10 minutes and she was still wearing it, then I would purchase it. 

2. Each morning, give your child 2-3 of her favorite options. Letting my daughter choose gave her some control over what she would wear and would save me from cleaning up the explosion of clothing she would throw all over the floor. 

3. Ask your child what they prefer. Some children want lose clothing while others want tight clothing. When you are tactile defensive, your needs could be different then another child's sensory needs. 

4. Soft and comfortable just feels so good. Scratchy hard fabrics usually feel very bad for those who have clothing sensitivities. 

5. Socks! They are a nightmare, right? Have you tried turning your child's socks inside out or purchased sensory seamless socks? 

6. I cannot say enough about Wilbarger Brushing Technique. It literally saved us! It doesn't work for everyone, but we noticed drastic changes right away. 

7. Cut the tags out of your child's clothing. Tags feel so horrible against the skin. Most clothing comes tagless which is a bonus but some clothing you have to undo the seam to get all the tag out because even leaving the tiny little corner of the tag behind can be just awful when you have clothing sensitivities. 

8. When you find a clothing brand your child loves, start buying more from that clothing line. If your child loves a shirt, go back to the store and purchase several colors and sizes. I would always think ahead. Kids grow so quickly, and I wanted to be prepared for the day her favorite shirt would become too small. 

9. All children are different, but some want plain clothing with no patterns or designs on their clothing. 

10. Zippers, buttons and snaps can be so itchy and irritating for a child who is tactile defensive. Most children will refuse to wear clothing with zippers and buttons. Most have a preference for loose comfortable pants with an elastic waist. Some children with Sensory Processing Disorder also struggle with fine motor skills and they struggle to fasten buttons and zippers. 

11. Natural clothing that uses synthetic breathable blends work best for sensory sensitive children. Synthetic clothing can be so itchy and irritate a child's skin. Very soft cotton, wool, bamboo and organic fabrics are preferred. Fabrics like denim can be too hard and scratchy. Most sensory tactile defensive children will refuse to wear jeans. 

12. New clothing can often feel stiff and rough. Washing clothing several times can make them feel softer and better. I used to purchase a lot of clothing from thrift stores because they would be worn in, and I didn't want to waste money on clothing that my child wouldn't wear. 

13. Choose clothing that fits well to prevent them from bunching up. Layering clothing that is bunching up can cause a child great discomfort. If your child prefers heavy layered clothing, I suggest a weighted vest or pressure vest. 

14. A little understanding goes a long way. I know how frustrating it can be as a parent, but your child really needs you to understand they are having a hard time so be patient. 

15. "Choose your battles" was something that I learned the most when it came to my daughter and clothing sensitives. I learned to compromise with my child. I would let her wear what she would be willing to wear as long as it was appropriately covering her. 

16. Children with Sensory Processing Disorder can also be sensitive to clothing detergent. The smell could be too strong, or the soap could bother their skin. Try a few different brands and scents to find which one they are not sensitive to use. Try a scent free or chemical free detergent. 

17. Try to avoid collars and turtleneck shirts. Children with Sensory Processing Disorder may be too sensitive to restrictive clothing.


18. Underwear can be extremely difficult for children with clothing sensitivities. There are many brands that are seamless with different styles. Unfortunately, it is quite common to buy a lot of different underwear before you find the right ones for your child. There are also seamless bras for girls too. 

19. Before trying to get your child dressed in the morning, fill their sensory diet. Your child's Occupational Therapist will assist you with a sensory diet for your child. Once their sensory needs are met, give your child the extra time they need to get dressed. Have your child do some heavy work activities before getting dressed or some sensory calming activities. 

20. Don't force your child to wear something that feels awful for them and causes them to meltdown. This will add to their distress and the next time they try to get dressed it can become more challenging. 

21. Everything is trial and error. Over time you will learn what your child will wear and what makes them most comfortable. What works for one, doesn't work for others. You are not alone. Just keep trying to find what works for your child. Everyone's sensory experiences are unique. 

22. Your child may only want to wear certain colors. They may be more happier wearing blue or green but not red or yellow. Ask your child if they prefer a certain color for their clothing. 

23. If you think that a piece of clothing feels soft for you, that doesn't mean that it will feel soft for your child. If you think that something would be comfortable for your child that doesn't mean that it will be. Only your child can determine if a piece of clothing will be tolerable for them to wear. If you also have clothing sensitives, your child's sensory sensitives will be different than yours. 

24. There are so many sensory friendly clothing options available now for children. They sometimes can cost more than department store brands but if it means better mornings and a happier child, then it's worth every penny. 

25. Plan ahead of schedule and prepare your child's clothing the night before. Put out 2-3 outfits for them to choose from. They will be prepared for the next morning and their clothing choices for the day. Allow them to be a part of the choosing process. 

26. The more children know ahead of time what is happening, the less anxiety they will have. Try using a visual morning schedule for your child and include getting dressed as part of the routine. 

27. Give your child a heads up or warning for when it is time to get dressed. A countdown or timer works for some children. 

28. Give praise and encouragement. If they tried but couldn't do it, praise them for trying. If they put the clothing on, praise them for doing it. Encourage them every step of the way. 

29. Keep a journal and keep track of what works and what doesn't work. This will help you while you are figuring out what strategies work best for your child. This will also be helpful when your child sees their Occupational Therapist. 

30. Talk to your child and ask them about what clothing is bothering them and why. Explain what sensory tactile defensive is. Read some children's books about clothing sensitivities to help them understand why they are experiencing this. 

I have come up with a list of sensory friendly clothing options that are now available to not only make your child's life easier but yours too! 

Sensory friendly clothing shops that sell clothing for children that won't itch, feel bunchy or feel scratchy. 

SmartKnitKIDS, JettProof , EZ Sox, Sensory Smart Clothing, Q Is For Quinn, Sense-ational You, Kozie Clothes, Kritter Kids, Mazi + Mom, Lucky & Me and Bleuet. 

DISCLAIMER: I am not an Occupational Therapist. I am an adult who has Sensory Processing Disorder, a sensory parent and a Grandma. The information on this website is not medical advice and does not replace the information that your child's therapists gives you. These are just ideas and information that I have learned myself over the years of being a parent and an adult living with SPD. If you are concerned for your child, please always seek medical attention through a family doctor, pediatrician or therapist. This website is for suggestions and informational purposes only. Each child is different and what works for one child may not for another because all children have different needs. Please always consult with a professional.

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