If you have a child with special needs, everyday activities present an ongoing challenge. Routines for getting dressed, eating, taking care of personal hygiene, going to bed, and getting ready for an outing require more steps than they do for most families. For many children and parents, adaptive clothes makes things just a little bit easier.
All kids can be picky. Some dislike the way seems or tags feel to them or the sensation of certain materials, but for kids with disabilities, clothing can create sensory overload.
While most people are aware of their clothing when they put it on, they disregard sensory input from clothing once it is in place. Children with disabilities have trouble filtering the information flooding their brains from what they see, hear, and feel. The seam or tag that is a mild irritant at most to others becomes a distraction they can’t ignore. Sensory issues can cause academic problems in the classroom and impact social interactions with their peers. Common irritants are:
- Tight cuffs or sleeves
- Scratchy, rough fabrics, often synthetic materials
- Seams in clothing and socks
- Snaps, buttons, and zippers with components that touch the skin
- Clothing that can bunch up
Most children have a tough time learning to work buttons, snaps, and zippers, but for some the struggle continues long past the toddler stage. They still want to be able to function independently. Adaptive clothing gives these children the self-confidence that comes from knowing they can select and put on their attire themselves and frees parents from an ongoing struggle with a routine activity.
Modifications That Make It Easier
Several clothing manufacturers recognize that kids with disabilities want to dress themselves in the latest fashions and, with a few design changes, they can. Clothes can look good and be easy to take on and off by making specific alterations. These are some of the features of adaptive clothing.
- Seamless socks and tagless shirts
- Velcro instead of buttons or snaps for closures
- Clothing made of natural materials and breathable fabrics that are soft, not scratchy
- Weighted vests
- Compression clothing
- Pants that open on the side or can be secured with a drawstring instead of snaps
- Closures located in areas where they can be reached comfortably with both hands
Adaptive Clothes Designers
Several clothing designers have recently started producing lines for children with special needs. Target’s Cat & Jack provides adaptive apparel for kids and toddlers with disabilities. Each of the 40 items is made of soft cotton and looks like Target’s other popular everyday wear. Onesies and leggings are diaper-friendly. Outerwear sleeves zip off and have extra openings, so a child doesn’t need help putting on a jacket. Sensory-friendly items have heat-stamped tags and flat inside seams.
Tommy Hilfiger makes getting dressed easy with the Tommy Adaptive line. Instead of Velcro, closures rely on hidden magnetic buttons. One-handed zippers are easy to work, and side-opening pants and adjustable hems work with braces and prosthetics.
Kozie Clothes also offers adaptive clothing for children with medical needs and sensory issues. The company’s specialized kids’ wear is designed for children with medical needs, including G-tubes and temperature control. Its clothing for kids with sensory processing disorders was designed by occupational therapists and has removable tags, fidgets to improve focus, and compression fitting.
Clothing designers realize they have a unique opportunity to help children feel good in what they wear with thoughtful adaptations for those with special needs. As they continue to innovate, parents and children will find much-needed assistance in completing everyday tasks.