Have you ever noticed that children with autism love wearing their old clothes rather than new ones? Dressing, grooming and presentation are areas of life skills that we try to incorporate into the education of children with autism. However, there are small areas where we face a challenge. Getting children to wear new clothes, is one of them. Children and adults with autism prefer to wear old, faded worn out clothes, and it can be quite difficult to get them to change.
So why does this happen? I first assumed that this was part of the ritualistic behavior that is seen in autism, however I recently read an article by Temple Grandin, which opened up my eyes to a new perspective. Temple Grandin is a person with autism, and also a writer and speaker. She has played an important role in improving our understanding of autism and this is one small example. She said that old clothes were simply more comfortable than new ones. It makes perfect sense. Old clothes are softer and must be so much easier to wear for children who have sensory hypersensitivity.
The solution she suggests is simple. Wash new clothes a couple of times before you introduce them to the child. Ensure that all the starch is gone. Choose soft, comfortable fabrics rather than anything scratchy. And if all of this doesn’t work, let the child wear an old vest underneath their newer clothes. These little adaptations can make dressing easier for children with autism.
Helping people with Autism is actually not so complicated, it just requires us to understand them a little better. Thanks, Temple Grandin, for opening our eyes.
Picture Credit: Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Onsen-2-Clothes.jpg