You might know a child who HATES that tag in the back of their shirt. Maybe the seam of socks need to be lined up “just right”. Maybe you know a student who only wears shorts no matter the weather. All of these clothing preferences might be a red flag related to a clothing sensitivity and sensory processing issues.
A clothing sensitivity related to specific clothing preferences is a common red flag related to sensory processing disorder.
Clothing Sensitivity Disorder
We all prefer certain textures of clothing, however, when clothing sensitivities or the touch discrimination (sensory touch) prevents one from wearing clothing or an extremely strict preference in clothing, there may be more to look at. Tactile defensiveness can impact daily self-care and functional performance in wearing weather-appropriate clothing. Take a look at the clothing sensitivity list below.
Because sensory processing challenges present differently in each child, there will be no list of clothing preferences that is the same for every child. There will also be no completely exhaustive list of red flags related to sensory processing issues or one that can indicate specific sensory issues.
However, it is possible to notice sensory needs related to clothing preferences and clothing sensitivity. The red flags listed below don’t necessarily mean that a child has a sensory processing disorder, only that a more intense look at the child might be needed. If a child seems to have a number of clothing sensitivities, a full evaluation by an occupational therapist may be needed.
Here are tips for getting sensory kids to wear winter clothing.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Clothing sensitivity red flags
Below are some examples of clothing sensitivities. These sensory issues with clothes may impact children, adults, or anyone in between.
An individual who prefers to wear only one type of texture is not something to be concerned with. Similarly, the student who wears shorts all winter long can get by with learning in the classroom without interference. The main consideration is when clothing sensory issues interfere with daily tasks and safety, including personal hygiene considerations.
Consider these sensory clothing red flags:
- Prefers a specific clothing material (e.g. only cotton or only lightweight fabrics)
- Child is bothered by seams
- Is bothered by tags
- Dislikes sleeves hitting wrists
- Dislikes hems of pants hitting ankles
- Wears only shorts even in very cold weather
- Wears only pants even in very hot weather
- Prefers clothing without buttons/snaps/zippers/ties
- Sensitive to collars hitting neck
- Unable to tolerate shoes
- Prefers only certain socks or shoes
- Dislikes when socks slide down in shoes
- Prefers feet to be totally uncovered or totally covered
- Unable to tolerate a belt or tight waistband
- Dislikes underwear or prefers only a certain type of underwear
- Bothered by seams in underwear
- Bothered by length of underwear
- Prefers tight clothing
- Unable to tolerate jeans
- Hates coats
- Prefers heavy layers of clothing
- Complains of “itching skin” with certain materials or types of clothing
- Complains of clothing tickling the skin
- Has meltdowns when it’s time to get dressed in the morning
What clothing sensitivities have you seen? This list could go on and on. As we all know…kids like to keep us on our toes!
Want this list as a printable version? Grab it here.
For the individual with clothing sensitivities, using preferred textures and cut of clothing is a means to support the individual’s preferences. Check out our resource on sensory clothing for specific ideas.
Clothing Sensory Issues
Depending on preferences, there can be various textures that one tries to avoid. Certain textures can feel uncomfortable, itchy, scratchy, or even painful. These are the most common sensory textures:
- Rough or scratchy textures, such as coarse fabrics or rough surfaces
- Fuzzy or hairy textures on sweaters
- Textures that hold in body heat: flannel materials, thermal materials, or polyester
- Textures that are tight or constricting
- Shirts with tight necks or turtlenecks
- Clothing with course seams
- Clothing with scratchy or long tags
Sensory Issues with Clothes List
Want a printable list of our sensory issues with clothes (listed above)? The printer-friendly list is ready to go! Enter your email address into the form below and the resource will be delivered to your inbox. This sensory issues with clothing printable is also found inside our Member’s Club. Head to the free printables toolbox and then select sensory.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.