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7 Tips For Helping Your Sensory-Sensitive Child Get Dressed
Perhaps the battle is a familiar one. Dressing your sensory-sensitive child is a daily struggle. As soon as you pull the shirt over your daughter's head, she yanks it off. Before you've adjusted the elastic on your son's pants, he's complaining that they're too itchy. As the minutes tick by, you just wish it was acceptable to bring your child out of the house naked. Unfortunately, it's not. And as anyone whose child struggles with sensory processing concerns or neurological differences can attest to, this can be a monumental frustration.

Tactile Sensitivity

Tactile sensitivity happens because the nervous system isn't interpreting touch sensations accurately. The result is a child who responds in "fight-or-flight" mode, withdraws, avoids or acts out in fear when faced with something that causes sensory overload. Here are some quick tips that can help. While all of these hints won't necessarily work with your child, they are parent-tested and (many) sensory-child approved.

Warm up the muscles first

Warming up the muscles is a useful way to reduce sensitivity. This is best achieved through what occupational therapists call "heavy work." These are activities that place deep pressure on the joints in the upper body through resistance. Your child could fall into piled cushions, shovel sand into a bucket, or carry heavy objects up and down the stairs. At the school where I work, we often see small children walking the halls carrying laundry detergent bottles full of water.

Choose the right undergarments

More than one day has been ruined by bunched up socks or scratchy underwear. Avoid the feud by making sure that the undergarments are as comfortable as possible. Lucky & Me designs underwear that is ultra-soft, free of chemicals, and smooth to touch.

Buy used clothing

One of the biggest benefits of buying used clothing is that you'll be less irritated when your child decides he doesn't like it anymore. And children love the soft feeling of fabric that has been washed and worn many times.

Layer clothing

As part of sensory integration therapy, children are sometimes covered with heavy blankets or wear weighted vests. If your child finds comfort in that cocoon-like feeling, try dressing her in layers. Place a t-shirt under a hoodie and offer a vest to top it off.

Moisturize skin

If your child's skin is dry, it will be more sensitive to textures. This makes it challenging for kids to tolerate clothing that would otherwise be okay. Moisturize throughout the year with a fragrance-free lotion.

Develop a process for getting dressed

The process of dressing can be important. Often, children appreciate putting clothes on -- and taking clothes off -- in the same order every time. If your child struggles with crossing the midline, try placing clothes on starting with the preferred side of her body.

Load up on the right vitamins

Opt for vitamins and supplements that reduce sensitivity. Research shows that certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can aggravate sensitivities. Many children with sensory process disorders self-limit their diet, making the need for supplements even more important. While getting dressed may never be a fun activity for a sensory sensitive child who dislikes tactile input, it can be less of a battle with these tips. Experiment with different possibilities that may help save your child's patience and your sanity in the process. 

By Stacey.

 

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