Resistant Dressers

Children may resist dressing for several reasons including:

Sensory Sensitivities

Children with tactile (touch) sensitivity or defensiveness may have difficulty wearing clothing with rough, irregular or unfamiliar textures. As children grow up, and with desensitization strategies, they will be able to tolerate these textures. In the meantime, here are some ideas to ease their discomfort.

  • Tagless clothing - many companies offer clothing with no tag sewn in
    • Carefully removing tags so a short stub isn’t left on the clothing, which may be even more uncomfortable than having the whole tag
  • Soft clothing, Elastics, Stretchy clothing
    • Materials like fleece, jersey cotton, or velvet-like cloth can be soothing and is usually well tolerated
  • Avoid wools and other fabrics that have low breathability and tend to cause itchiness
  • Less buttons
    • Button-up shirts, or shirts with embellishments may come in contact with the skin repeatedly throughout the day which may be dysregulating for children with sensory challenges
    • Pants with a button and zipper configuration may feel tighter around the waist during certain movements and can cause discomfort
  • Shoes with flexible soles
    • A more natural shoe feel may be preferred by sensory sensitive children
    • Also reduces frequent shoe removal
  • Slowly introduce different textures in a safe space
    • Playing - begin with soft materials such as cotton and q-tips, progress to
    • shaving cream, sand, play dough, goop, etc.
  • Food - Playing with food allows the child to become familiar with it without feeling pressure to taste it. For picky eaters, playing touching and exploring food is one of the steps to trying and acquiring a taste for the novel food item. It also helps them feel comfortable with a variety of textures, temperature, and smells.
Emotional Disregulation/Fear

Several factors play into an individual’s emotional state at any given time. Children often do not know how to effectively communicate their emotional state or their fears. Protests, crying and tantrums may be indicative of emotional disregulation or fear surrounding dressing.

Here are some important considerations to address:

Is there fear around the proceeding activity that occurs after changing clothes?

  • Scared of being alone at bedtime
  • Don’t want to go to school
  • Don’t want to go to the doctor/dentist

Are the child’s basic need met?

  • Did they have enough sleep?
  • What is their level of hunger?
  • Are they in pain?
  • Is there a body part that hurts?
  • Are they sick?
Difficulty Dressing

Many components are required for dressing and children with motor delays may have greater difficulty with even simple dressing tasks which can lead to frustration and avoidance of dressing tasks. Speak with your doctor or therapist about what your child’s unique challenges may be.

See Adapting Clothes and Techniques for Motor Challenges for common techniques to address these challenges.

Following a Routine

Many children have difficulty with the morning routine of getting ready for school because requires many steps, some of which may be difficult. Try the following strategies:

  • Visual Schedule
    • Use a checklist system where they can cross out the task
  • Preparing the night before
    • Talk through the steps of the schedule while tucking them in
  • Choose and set out clothes the night before
  • Decide on what to have for breakfast
  • Place items such as backpacks and shoes in a set location with high visibility so they can be easily remembered
  • Use incentives
    • Sticker program
    • Work towards computer minutes
  • Use social stories
    • Try a social story about what will happen and what is expected from the child in the morning or during dressing time

Dressing How-to: Tips and Tricks
Adapting Clothes and Techniques for Motor Challenges
Fine Motor Milestone