HomeautismSensory Processing Disorder and Clothing

I’m not a fan of clothing shopping. I wear a small size that’s hard to find in many

Socks can be a big problem when SPD enters
the picture. I knitted these a long time ago, and
the seam at the toe would be a problem for a lot of

stores, and when I do find it, the styles are usually unappealing. Don’t get me started on the horrors of women’s fashion, either.

What I go through is nothing in comparison to a parent shopping for a child with tactile defensiveness, a type of SPD. People who deal with this type of sensory processing disorder often have trouble finding comfortable clothing, because they’re so sensitive to certain kinds of touch.

While most of us can dismiss the feel of an itchy label or the pressure points of an ill fitting waistband, this brand of sensory processing makes that impossible. The itch doesn’t go away and the pressure becomes painful.

This restricts the types of clothing options available, and becomes extremely frustrating. As irritating as I find clothing shopping, that annoyance is multiplied by about one hundred when shopping for someone with these issues.

Since sensory processing isn’t restricted to the ASD community, similar struggles are experienced by many people. My younger brother, for example, will only wear one style of clothing, which is very difficult to find in stores.

That said, there are solutions, even if they can be hard to come by. I’ve met several autism moms who let their kids run around without pants when at home.

And why not? Their little ones deserve to be comfortable in their own houses.

Temple Grandin has said that she cuts off the labels of her underwear and wears them inside out. Tags itch horribly, and seams can get painful. Getting rid of the tags and turning the garments inside out eliminates the discomfort.

Over the past ten years or so, tagless shirts and underwear have become available in stores, and I’ve seen t-shirts with patches sewn over the seams for further comfort. These trends demonstrate the majority of people, most of whom are neurotypical, prefer not to deal with tags or seams as well.

I’m sure there are also folks out there who have taken up sewing or knitting in order to make suitable clothing for themselves and their loved ones. Although it may take more time and effort, they probably end up saving themselves a fair amount of money and frustration in the long run. It’s also nice to be able to customize the wardrobe.

This has also given rise to small companies, like SPD Apparel and Downs Designs. People with Downs Syndrome also struggle to find clothing that fits comfortably, because their body shapes are rare enough that mainstream manufacturers don’t cater to them. They share similar issues with those with SPD. Unfortunately, there still aren’t many companies out there who cater to these groups, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers are growing.

As frustrating as finding clothing can be, it’s important to realize there’s absolutely nothing wrong with needing to wear things that are comfortable. It’s something we all do, but when it comes to those who struggle with SPD, it’s even more important for suitable clothing to be available. If you can’t get physically comfortable, how can you focus enough to work or play?

Just think about the last time you wore an itchy sweater, had to stay in formal wear for an extended period of time or wore a pair of shoes that didn’t fit correctly. Why should anyone be submitted to that discomfort and pain on an every day basis?


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