From the time he was a tiny baby, Evan hated clothes. He was perfectly happy to romp and play completely in the buff. As a toddler, he loved summer when he could take off all his clothes and swim in the little plastic wading pool on his back porch. However, it became a problem when Mom wanted to have other kids and their Moms over for a playdate or when she had to take him out of the house. Then the tantrums, the pleading, and the wrestling to get the shirts and pants and socks and shoes onto his little body were in full swing.
Jimmy loved making snow forts. When the first flakes of a good snowstorm came through, he began planning how to make the best one yet. He would stay outside for hours molding his newest creation. However, he was totally content to wear only sweats and gloves and tennis shoes (no coat, no hat, no socks). Occasionally, Mom could talk him into snow boots. His parents worried about hypothermia and frostbite.
As a Junior Usher, Monty had to dress up for his sister's wedding. He was required to wear a button down shirt, a suit jacket, tie, socks and dress shoes. Years later looking at the wedding photos, one can see how miserable he was.
Do these scenarios look familiar?
We know just the thing that can help? AND....it doesn't cost anything but your time!
Take a bath glove (if you don't have one yet, a lot of Dollar Stores carry them). We call it a scratchy glove. Put it on your hand. Then, lightly (the key is to do it very lightly) glide your gloved hand over your child's legs, arms, back, bellies, feet, faces, necks - front and back.
How many times a day and how long should I do this, you ask. If you have a moderately sensory child, we suggest twice a day for three minutes. Do it more times a day, but still the three minute duration, if your child is more than moderately sensitive. For highly sensitive children, we suggest many times a day - as many as you can get in.
Get a good second/minute timer. When you sit down to do the scratchy glove activity, set the timer for three minutes and forget about the time. Just work the activity until the timer goes off. This signals to the child that the timer decides when you are done -- not him (not even you) -- the timer. Read further for an exception.
Now, if your child is highly sensitive to touch or clothing, you will get a great deal of resistance when attempting this activity. Not to worry. This just means that he or she has an even greater need for it! So, what can you do when he is wiggling uncontrollably and complains that you are torturing him? First of all, steer clear of the feet. We cannot even count how many times we found ourselves at the kicking end of the feet of a hypersensitive child. Secondly, we recommend that you start very slowly with this child. Set the timer for 30 seconds if she can tolerate that much, if not - set it for shorter than 30 seconds. The timer is still the determining factor to decide when you are done. You will want to build upon the starting time each time you do the activity. Over time, believe it or not, your child will be grow into being able to tolerate longer time periods.
If your child has aversion to all sorts of fabrics, rotate through a variety of textures, i.e. burlap, lambs wool, silk or satin, flannel. You can start with a favorite blankie or other favorite huggie friend but be sure to add in other fabrics that are not so comfortable.
We did it -- AND IT WORKS! Why does this make a difference for a sensory child? Because you are opening new pathways in the brain with very specific stimulation and giving every opportunity for new connections to take place. When the connections take place, the problem is significantly decreased and in a lot of cases eliminated altogether.
Don't give up! The most important thing in this activity is that you not give up. Whenever you work on this and especially if you are consistent, you are making a difference. We do not get a window into the brain to see those pathways opening and connections being made. Be assured, however, behind the scenes work is happening. You just have to stick with it UNTIL the changes happen. For some children changes happen relatively quickly. For other children, it takes longer to see changes. No mother or father who has done this activity and whose child's hypersensitivity to touch has improved has been sorry for the time and effort they have put into this activity. On the contrary, they are now rejoicing that their child has been set free.
We wish for your child more variety with clothing options and other tactility benefits.
Have fun with it! Enjoy the time with your precious child.
If you want help with determining next steps, we would love to talk with you. We encourage and empower parents who have children with challenges to know what to do next. Schedule a “Get Acquainted Call” with us at MarchForthFamily.com/GAC
Tom and Julie