The Clothing Dilemma

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The Clothing Dilemma - Tom and Julie Meekins - 

Our children who have sensory concerns struggle sometimes with wearing certain clothes.

  • Some of them struggle with wearing any clothes.
  • Some of them will only wear one dress – or one kind of pants – or one kind of shirt.
  • Some have a great deal of difficulty with wearing socks and shoes.

This can be very challenging for parents.

We have solutions for you!

These four targeted activities have made a world of difference for children who have clothing issues.


  • Scratchy glove


Rub with a bath glove - Get a bath glove. We like to call them scratchy gloves. Put the glove on your hand and then very lightly rub the glove over all four limbs, the torso, and any areas that are bothered by tags or certain fabrics. Twice a day for 3 minutes.

Hint: Set the timer for the allotted time and then focus on the activity. When the timer goes off -- you are done. If your child is highly sensitive, you may have to build the time. If so, you can start with 30 seconds and build.


  • Fabric rub


Find other fabrics such as:

  • lamb’s wool,
  • burlap,
  • fleece,
  • denim,
  • satin.

Very similar to what you are doing with the scratchy glove:

  • rotate through whatever fabrics you have lined up,
  • very lightly rub the fabric over the skin.

Depending on the severity of your child’s struggle, do this in addition to the scratchy glove time for two or three minutes several times a day. Each time you do the activity limit it to no more than three minutes. More often for those three minutes at a time will be more effective.


  • Mindset


Sometimes a child’s struggle gets rooted into the way they think. We may have to help them out of the rut they are in with their belief system. You can do this by creating digital recordings, social stories, or by role playing with your child. The idea is to INPUT the correct information – the truth about the matter. These are always positive. You are giving your child information that they probably do not have.

Digital Recordings:

Prepare digital recordings for them to listen to throughout the day and while they are sleeping. We suggest digital recordings as a wonderful tool for helping children to embrace new information in their worlds. we have seen homemade recordings make a huge difference for children.

What would these recordings look like? You would make the script in first person as if the child is saying these words. You would make the recordings that are to be listened to during the day no more than 3 minutes long. You can also make recordings for the child to listen to while he or she is sleeping as well. The scripts could go something like this:

"I love to wear all kinds of different clothes. My favorite right now is (fill in blank) but I also like to wear jeans and button down shirts and (whatever it is you want them to wear). Mommy wears lots of different kinds of clothes. She wears different kinds of dresses (pants, shirts, etc.) Some clothes are what she needs to wear to work. Some are what she wears to work in the garden. Some are what she wears to clean our house. Some she wears to bed. Daddy wears lots of different clothes, too. He has to wear (    ) to work. He likes to wear (    ) when he cuts the grass. I have to wear certain kinds of clothes to school and then I can wear my favorites when I (am home or play with my friends or go to Grandma’s house – or whatever is appropriate for your family.)”

Always keep the scripts very positive. Whatever you want the child to be thinking -- the truth you want him or her to understand -- is what you will put in the script. This is not brainwashing. This is teaching. This is inputting truth. Create the script to advance to the stage where you want your child to be.

You can also create social stories. Some resources for helping you to create social stories are:  

Resources for social stories:



  • Timer/Clothes Game


  • Have several different kinds of clothing ready that you want your child to get used to wearing.
  • Have your child pick one of them.
  • Encourage him to wear that piece of clothing or at least drape it over his skin (arm or leg, etc.).
  • Set a timer for a designated period of time. When the timer goes off – let your child remove that one and select another item to put on.
  • Go through as many different items as you have time for.


  • Some children will be able to wear the clothing for minutes at a time.
  • Some will only be able to tolerate them for a few seconds at a time.
  • Some will not even be ready yet to put them on properly but may let you drape them over.

You know your child. Start with small amounts of time and build (even seconds is okay). The key is you want your child to feel the victory of wearing the clothing for the allotted time.

You may want to engage in this activity WITH your child with your own different types of clothing.

You may need to model this game FIRST with your own clothing before your child may be ready to venture.

The key with all of these activities is to help your child get out of the rut in a positive and encouraging way. We have no idea really what they are feeling and we want to be compassionate. It may seem like no big deal to us for a kid to just put on the clothing we want them to wear. We may be inclined to be heavy handed with it. Please stop a minute and consider that your child is struggling here. Your child’s struggles are just as real and big to them as yours are to you.

The other thing we want to mention that is really important is this: Through the years we have seen children who have been allowed to stay stuck with these kinds of ruts. It has not served them well. Often they go deeper and deeper into their rut and into their own little worlds.

Just recently we read a story about a little girl who was obsessed with one shirt. Her mother was able to find the shirt in her size for several years in a row. Apparently, the child wore the same shirt very often. Then – she outgrew the available sizes the shirt was found in. This was a dilemma. The mom made an appeal on Facebook to her friends to help her find this shirt in larger sizes. The response was that she began to receive this shirt in her mailbox. Over and over again folks – even strangers – and eventually the store itself -- decided to gift this family with oodles and oodles of this shirt in various sizes.

While this is a wonderful human interest story and we are so blessed to hear about people caring enough to want to love on this family – it is our opinion that in the long run – they were probably not doing this girl any favors.

It is not good for any of us to stay stuck in those kinds of obsessive ruts. As a mom and dad, we worked hard to help our children move on.

If you think like we do and you want to help your child out of the clothing rut, we encourage you to do the activities. Remember – do them until you see a difference. For some kids, it happens in a relatively short period of time. For some children, it takes longer. Stay the course. What you are doing is opening pathways in the brain so that new connections can take place and this new way of doing life can be a norm for your child.

It works for SO many kids. Maybe yours can be one of them!

With much love,
Tom and Julie Meekins

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