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As parents, or caregivers of children with autism we know that change can be hard for our children. Some children have a resistance to change in many areas including clothing. Although there may be a resistance, some children have their own unique issues with clothing. The change of seasons can bring this out or it can start an intricate dance on how to facilitate clothing with your child.
Here are 3 different instances of what the challenges are and how they are addressed with these three families.
Andie~A mom with 5 children and her youngest one is Ben. Ben is a fun energetic 16 year old with autism. Andie is the Parent Liaison at Behavioral Perspective Inc.
Some of us like the change of seasons. Most of us dread the trying on the clothes to see what fits and what does not fit. Mr. Ben does not care for it either. Since Ben is now 16, I realized (with the gentle push from a friend) that he needs to be an active part of assessing what fits, making a list of what he needs, shopping and picking out the items and staying within a budget. This task was daunting to me the first time we talked about it. In the past I would notice Ben's clothes not fitting and just tell him to take it off and put it in the Goodwill bag. I would then occasionally pick up clothes that I think he would like while I was shopping at any given random store. My friend pointed out that while this was the easiest method for me, it was not doing anything to foster Ben's independence. Not to mention the fact that no 16 yr old wants his Mommy to pick out his clothes. My friend was right. I am not going to be around some day. Everything I do with Ben should be focused on my end goal for him - Independence. So this season that's what I did. He was involved in every step of the process of the transition. Every step was not easy (one cell phone was destroyed during the process) but we did it! Score one for the Mom!
Tune in to our FB Live on Wednesday to hear how this went!
Kymi~Mom of Isaiah who is a warm loving 17yr old young man with autism. Kymi is a Lead Registered Behavior Technician and a helps run our Parent Network Support Group at Behavioral Perspective Inc.
Planning & Negotiating
Weeks before Fall begins, I start making my son wear clothing more appropriate for the brutal winters here in Chicago. Why do I have to think about this long before winter? Because my son, who has autism, has a hard time going from summer clothing to winter clothing.
Here in Illinois, winter months can be brutal. Wearing layers of clothing can be challenging for my son. My son has a hard time putting on socks when the weather changes. Before summer ends, I begin the process of having my son wear socks around the house. I start with a few minutes at a time and build up from there.
My son also has a hard time going from shorts to long pants. This change in clothing can cause a tantrum or hours of negotiating to get him to comply. For my son this issue of clothing is not all sensory based. Some of his issues were around “routine”, what he is use to and what he really prefers.
Once I had a better understanding of the function of the behavior, I was able to decide what is and is not negotiable. As a mom, I pick my battles, and if I can get the socks on the feet when there is snow on the ground I am happy. I will negotiate if the socks have to be long or short.
Isaiah does not like to wear hats, so I often buy coats that have a hood. I can get the hood on him easier than the hat. I pick my battles and remember that we can both feel good about the choices being made.
One of the best pieces of advice I have received is to know what I am being persistent about, and to be flexible. I have also learned to remove the summer items out of sight. For my son, “out of sight out, of mind”.
I am not an expert, but I do have some tools that have worked for us in the past or currently working now:
Denise~Mom of 2 children. Her youngest son, Rocky, is a fun loving, quirky 8 year old who has been diagnosed with autism. Denise is the Director of Operations at Behavioral Perspective Inc.
The unexpected, necessary lesson
I would consider myself lucky in this arena. Tags, scratchy fabric, & season changes don’t seem to bother Rocky. Rocky is 8 and is close to mastering the art of getting himself dressed properly. He LOVES to pick out his own clothes although needs help to match items with the weather. We are still fine tuning the occasional backwards shorts or shirt along with some tricky buttons or zippers.
We have run into issues with rigidity surrounding clothes. Recently we were away for the weekend and forgot to pack a pajama top. Rocky ALWAYS sleeps in pajamas. I told him he could sleep in his regular t-shirt or even no shirt like his brother. He wasn’t having it. He had a meltdown and was just completely thrown off by not having an actual “pajama” shirt to sleep in. In the end he eventually went to sleep, however, when we returned home at 3 in the afternoon, he immediately went to his room and put on a full set of pajamas, reenacted his bedtime routine and “went to bed.” He literally got in bed for a few minutes and then “woke up” again to start his day. I guess this is what he needed to move on with his day.
I find my best reaction in these moments is to tell him once or twice what his choices are and then ignore the tantrum. I don’t cater to the rigidity. I don’t go to target and buy pajamas at 9pm. I prefer not plan ahead for every little thing that is going to throw him off. Life doesn’t always go as planned and I hope he can eventually learn to just “meltdown” quietly in his own head like most of us do. He is already making great progress and finding his own quirky ways to cope with life’s annoyances.
As parents of children with autism, challenges can occur in many areas of daily living.
We are not experts, or noted researchers in this area. We are moms who are all on different paths in our autism journey. We are offering 3 different perspectives of the challenges of clothing and how we approached them in our own lives.
Thanks for checking out our blog this week! Join us this Wednesday on FB Live as we continue this conversation!!