Clothing Sensitivity

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4 year old hyper sensitive to clothes

March 2016

My 4.5 year old daughter has always been very sensitive both emotionally and physically. I try to be attentive to her needs but her sensitivity to clothes can just drive me through the wall sometimes. Ideally she would just go naked all day anywhere with no clothes to bother her...in cool weather all hell breaks loose because it's just impossible to let her out naked...She will start crying profusely because of a small seam in her sock, she'll complain about all her shoes, she'll melt down because her pants wrinkle up when she sits or a minor minor wrinkle on her sock when she bends her foot, seams and socks are a HUGE issue and she's EXTREMELY picky about them... try bending your foot without getting any wrinkles on your sock???? And forget about any sock that has a teenie tiny bit of extra space on the side corners of the toes, if it's loose it wrinkles too much and if it's tight her toes touch each other too much! of course it's worse if she's tired or hungry or just in a bad mood. Am I the only one dealing with this? It would be a relief just to know that there are other moms out their with similar issues. Thanks! pea princess mama


You are not alone! We have had the same problem -- it's gotten better now that my daughter is six, but she still takes off all her clothes as soon as she gets home. She did not wear socks or underwear until this year and I don't insist on either. We've had the best luck with Hanna Andersen clothes -- pricey but often available at used clothing shops. The seams are flatter than other brands. Used clothes in general seem to be softer. Also finding clothes where the tag is printed on the clothes or cutting the tags out immediately helps. The book Raising Your Sensory Smart Child was also helpful, specifically the part about using a brush on her skin to try to desensitize it. She also spent hours when she was 4-5 lying in a sandbox, which seemed to calm her down. There are lots of other suggestions in the book. Still there


My daughter was similar and I know other children who hates seams in their socks, won't wear socks or tights, even underwear or certain kinds of pants. This isn't their fault, they have a tactile sensitivity that makes it so uncomfortable to them in a way we don't feel. So, they make no-seam socks and underwear and they are so helpful! No more battles! Check out the book Out-of Synch Child which also includes tactile sensitivities. It is a sensory processing issue. I found this book incredible helpful for some of these unusual sensitivities that my daughter had. You can google no-seam socks, smart knits or tootsie wear etc...Just make sure they are really no seam, some say they are but they aren't. And I found after many washings they can get hard and stiff and my daughter won't wear them. Smart knits are better quality and last longer. Also, my daughter only wore really soft leggings and yoga pants for years, soft cotton shirts with no tags, no buttons, no lace, no zippers, no rough textures, washed well in non-scented softeners or even used is better then new. It got so much better once I understood it was tactile sensitivity and not her being picky and fussy. Happy seamless sock mom


Welcome to the world of parenting highly sensitive children. It took me a long time to realize my daughter wasn't in fact being difficult or picky but really experienced everything--sensations and emotions--much more acutely than other children.

My oldest daughter (now 9) did not wear socks period (even in winter) before the age of 7 she hated the seams so much. They make seamless socks--you can search them online--I discovered only later! She also wouldn't wear many types of clothing. Pants from Garnett Hill and their clothes generally appeal to highly sensitive kids.

Good luck! If you realize her experience of the world is like having receptors that are 10x the average person's, it really helps! Stephanie


Been there!!!f So so hard! I remember a whole winter where we just stayed home, jacked up the heat and had a naked girl for weeks... I now know that my daughter has sensory processing disorder. We finally went to an OT that works with SPD (Rita Montez) and we brushed her skin daily with a special brush and did all sorts of things. She's 18 and is still very sensitive. Still wears seamless socks, has figured out undies that work, but she used to not wear any for years. In pouring rain she wore flip flops cause shoes were too much.

I would just advise you to see it as a real physical disability. They are just very very sensitive to physical input. It's real. Wish I could tell you of a magic wand but the reality is that it takes uber uber patience as a parent. Other parents lectured me on how I indulged her. Teachers told me I spoiled her. It was rough. But she always had me on her side and together we figured out strategies to find solutions that worked for her.

Good luck. You are not crazy or overindulgent. Just keep trying new strategies and tell your child that you understand. Namki Namki [at] sbcglobal.net


I have been though this and thought I was at my wit's end too. I had a talk with a wonderful understanding nurse at Kaiser who works with highly sensitive children. What she told me was a sanity saver and also helped my kid feel better about themselves. She told me there's no way for me to ever know how awful those clothes feel (for my kid it was socks, jeans, anything tight or too hot or scratchy). The nurse told us, if your kid doesn't want to wear socks, they don't have to wear socks! If it gets too cold for them they'll let you know. Other things - make sure they try on all clothes before you buy them and they give you verbal okay they don't feel weird. Buy multiples of things they do like (but don't get it in growing sizes because they may change preference later). My kid didn't wear socks for 3 years - would still love to be in flip flops every day - but has PE 2x a week and needs to wear socks and tennis shoes now and we kept trying until we found socks they like. She also told me read ''The Highly Sensitive Child'' and it really helped put things into perspective. We also did a star chart for every day w/o a clothes meltdown - slowly growing the times to a reward first one week then 2 weeks then 1 month - we did it for a year and it was super helpful. Also helped our kid feel in control and a sense of pride when they were able to hold it together. You can work with this


For sure you are not alone. My son is also super sensitive to clothing. Still is but at 9 it's a lot better than it was when he was 4. It really used to do my head in then. In terms of advice not sure how much of mine is applicable to you but we change our sons clothes as little as possible. He sleeps in his clothes. He has a few outfits that he can tolerate and thats all he wears, ever. He loves smart wool socks. Not designed for sensory kids but they are all he will wear summer and winter. I also think socks could definitely be optional all year round here in the bay area. My son wears shorts and sandals year round and gets by. Just know that it will get better. Good luck


Nope, you're not alone. Your daughter likely has sensory processing disorder or at least has sensory sensitivities which can be helped with Occupational Therapy (OT) For the first few years of my son's life, he could not ride in his car seat unless his pants and underwear were pulled down because he couldn't tolerate the feeling of anything wrinkled on his butt or anything remotely like a ''wedgie'' so he rode in the car with a towel under and over his lap for privacy. We had to get him certain kinds of pants with elastic, stretchy with a long rise in the crotch, he wore Crocs shoes only, no socks, no tags in shoes and had several other sensitivities. I am a mom with the ability to set limits and be firm, but these struggles were real for him. He is now 12, still wears Crocs but with socks now, a bit more variety in pants and can have his pants up when he sits down. These sensitivities are very real and the feelings are intense and often excruciating for the child-they really cannot help it. Please read about SPD and call your pediatrician to ask for an OT consult. If you can, I'd recommend seeing an OT at Communication Works, as their evaluations are quite thorough. SPD mom


My son drove us all INSANE with his hyper-sensitivity to socks or anything in his shoes. He was actually banned from the sandbox in pre-school because he'd freak out every time he got sand in his shoes and would take his shoes off which was not allowed. On hikes he'd stop constantly to shake pebbles out of his shoes. His socks always had to be inside out.. etc. You have my empathy, it's horrible to deal with! Find a sock brand she likes and buy just those, a huge help. I'll bet that she has to have her bedsheets just perfect too? She'll outgrow it.. hang in there! My son is 13 now and is much less sensitive, though he LOVES all things soft and fluffy (not a bad thing . Kath


You're describing a tactile hypersensitivity also known as hyperesthesia. It's not uncommon for people with ADHD or those on the autism spectrum. Sounds like your daughter is fairly severe right now. There's lots of research. Here's a link that might be helpful for you. http://kidcompanions.com/tactile-sensitivity-what-it-is-and-the-common-signs/ Sydney


Absolutely. There's lots of kids like that, mine included. Check out http://www.preventiveoz.org, my pediatrician turned me to it when my child was 3 months and I kept asking ''why does she not like (you name it)'', it's a personality profile site and it was a huge help for me for to discover the personality traits of my highly sensitive child. I then did a search for ''spirited child parenting'' and found ''raising your spirited child'' which has also been a huge help. Your kids personality profile may be different but the preventativeoz.org site was a great start to know how to deal with my child who is wonderful but so different from me! Preventative Mommy


I'm looking forward to your responses, because I'm sure you are not alone in this. My 4 year old has similar issues, but not relating to clothing per se. If his clothes get wet (say with handwashing), he has a fit. Any water splashed on his clothing sets him off, or on his face, which granted no one likes but can deal. My son is very high strung, so I often don't know what will set him off. I feel like we walk on eggs shells around him, because I just don't want to hear the crying/whining or stomping of feet. We could be getting into the car and randomly he'll have a fit if I didn't let him open the car door that day, even though he was just fine with me doing it the previous week. I have two other children so I have some perspective in the sense that the other two are MUCH more easy going. anon


Hi pea princess mama,

I appreciate your concerns about your child's sensitivity to clothing. I urge you to consider that she may have a sensory processing disorder, in which one or more of her senses send a confused signal to her central nervous system. This can create a sense of extreme anxiety, hypersensitivity and reactivity as she struggles to make sense of the mixed signals going to her brain, and make life challenging for the whole family.

Here's a link to a video that may help you make sense of this: http://a.advancedbrain.com/video_library.jsp

Fortunately, there has never been a better time for non-pharmaceutical, non-invasive interventions that can help to turn this around and reduce or even eliminate the need for longer, more costly therapeutic interventions to combat the cognitive difficulties that may develop if this is left unchecked. The methods I use (and those shown in the video) use specially treated music that helps the brain unscramble the mixed signals it is getting.

I hope this is of help to you. I would be happy to speak with you in person and guide you to information and resources about this developmentally crucial issue. valerie c


My daughter is 9 and has also always been extremely sensitive about her clothes, getting her hands dirty, feeling water on her face, etc. There's a term for it, tactile sensitivity. Some aspects seem to run in my family because my mom is also immensely picky about sock seams. I hear you about how difficult (exhausting, frustrating!) it can be to get out the door. I've used sort of a three fold approach with my girl. First, shop very carefully for clothes that work and buy multiples, including a size up when something is a favorite. All of her socks are stride rite seamless. She's able to wear tag less regular t shirts if they are not too embellished so we can still mostly shop at target and old navy but has tank tops from Hannah Anderson that she wears under everything (even pjs to sleep!). She also likes crocs often with no socks and went an entire winter wearing knock off Ugg style boots with no socks which worked fine. Second, my daughter is very artistic and sensitive emotionally so I've tried to reinforce that artists are aware of their surroundings and she is especially aware, i.e., that there isn't anything wrong with her she is just feeling things deeply in a way that not everyone does but this is ultimately a source of strength once she learns how to cope. Your little one sounds young for this type of self talk just yet, but there may nonetheless be ways to help her value her sensitivity without feeling bad. Also, I've stressed that being sensitive doesn't give you the right to treat others poorly, like yelling or screaming when upset. Thirdly, my daughter started occupational therapy for the tactile sensitivity and that has been helpful. There is a skin brushing protocol that can be used for desensitization, among other tactics. Sessions are covered by my insurance and she goes to Therapy at Play in San Ramon. She loves it because it truly feels like play to the child. Please feel free to reach out if you'd like to chat, there's definitely more I could say on strategies. We just had an epic search for a comfortable rain jacket that thankfully ended happily with a Columbia from REI, but there were indeed tears in the fitting room. And of course, as in all things parenting, be sure to take care of yourself so you have the energy to deal with these rough spots. catherine


5 year old's tantrums about clothing sensitivities

August 2015

My daughter just turned five and is still very sensitive about the way her clothes feel. I am at the end of my rope with the meltdowns/tantrums every morning regarding clothes that just don't feel right. About a year ago I finally bought seamless socks and that has made our mornings infinitely better, but she still struggles with other articles of clothing. For example, the only pants that she will wear are stretch leggings, so we own about 12 pairs of those right now, but if they are 1/8'' ''too short,'' then she grabs at her ankles, pulls at them, cries, throws herself on the ground, etc. She also does not like it if pants are ''too long,'' and reacts in the same way to that problem. If I try to roll up pants that are long, she doesn't like the way that feels either. She hates when clothes are ''bunchy.'' She cannot wear three-quarter length sleeves because it feels too weird on her forearms. Our current policy is to get rid of any clothing that doesn't feel good, and to only buy things that feel good to her, but it is almost impossible to find clothes to buy that meet this criteria. And every time we find something, she grows out of it almost immediately!

The whole thing feels so absurd that it might almost be funny if it didn't make her so mad/sad, make me so angry with her, and just generally ruin our mornings and make it impossible to get out the house on time. I have tried being extra sympathetic, I have tried being firm, I have everything in between. I don't feel like she is being manipulative, I feel like she just really cannot regulate her emotions with regard to the way things *feel*. It may be worth noting that she is also super sensitive to loud noises; however, she doesn't have problems with textures of food (thank god), so I know I don't have it as bad as some other folks. I kept thinking that she would eventually grow out of this behavior (I'm pretty sure it's what made her a colicky baby), but now that she is five and still having daily meltdowns, I am concerned that this behavior might fall outside the range of normal.

So my questions are this: (1) Does this seem like something I should be concerned about? Or is this relatively normal behavior that she will likely grow out of naturally? (2) Does anyone have experience with this, or can you recommend any techniques to deal with this? I've read about the concept of a Sensory Diet, and I've tried some techniques like massaging her legs before putting pants on. The massaging seemed to help somewhat. I'm wondering if there are other techniques or resources out there that I should try. (3) I am going to ask for recommendations for a therapist (OT?) or someone to do an assessment of her in the Recommendations newsletter, so please look there if you have someone you'd recommend I talk to about this. Thank you! Anon


Your posted resonated. My 3.5 year old daughter is not quite as extreme, but is VERY picky about what she will wear, and is often bothered by tags, stiff fabrics, buttons, etc. My main tactic has been to allow her to dress herself, which she has done since she was about 18 mos. She has a few favorites that she wears over and over (oh, the despair when they are in the wash!). We've found that leggings and dresses from Tea Collection work well - but of course, they can't be too long, too short, or too tight. Tea has a lot of loose, trapeze style dresses that seem to work well, with or without leggings. Nothing ever with stiff fabric - so no jeans, cords, or button pants or shirts. Oh well. choosing my battles


I have an 8 yr old who has the same tactile issues with clothing, socks, shoes. She also has some sound and food texture issues, but I'll just talk about the clothing. I will say that my daughter's reactions have lessened greatly in intensity over the last few years as she's become more independent, so hopefully that will happen with you. She still wears only leggings (though I prefer that she wear them w/tunics that doesn't always happen & I just have to let that one go), seamless socks, and generally clothes made out of cotton tee-shirt material where the seams are not ''itchy.'' It is difficult to find shoes, socks, clothing, etc. that she is comfortable in, but I stick to basics and if she likes a certain brand or style, then I buy that thing in every color and another size ahead if possible! I am kind of terrified of what's going to happen when she sizes out of Gymboree that tends to make very soft clothing, but anyway!

We went to a therapist on our own to strategize around how we could deal with the intense meltdowns and had not really considered that her mild sensory processing issues were a contributing factor to them (duh!). We realized that these meltdowns happened more often when we're trying to get out the door. Suddenly the socks feel all wrong & the whole universe comes crashing down. We always knew transitions were difficult, but it all came together at that point for us. So, we prepare everything the night before, including okaying clothing and having another option just in case that first option turns out to be the worst thing in the entire world. We wake her up with massage and take everything leisurely. We leave plenty of time for the morning so there is not even a moment of rushing. It's hard, esp. since we have a toddler, but it has really cut down on the morning drama. The therapist suggested giving her a piece of gum to chew on when getting ready as well to give her body something else to focus on while she's getting up, putting on her clothes and shoes. We did that for a while and I think it helped. I had totally forgotten about that though before I read your message, but maybe it will help!

I totally understand your frustration. As the one who buys all the clothes, it drives me crazy when one day the $50 shoes are GREAT! But then 2 weeks later they are TERRIBLE. I hadn't heard about the diet but I haven't noticed flare ups being connected to what she eats, but perhaps I'll look into it. Good luck! It gets better...in my experience!


Dear friend We found that ''brushing'' was a very effective therapy with our infant/toddler when she began to show signs of tactile sensitivity/sensory integration difficulty. We used a very gentle brush (made of natural materials, not plastic) and brushed her whole body as often as possible. Like massage, we tried to make it a soothing and pleasurable experience. We also saw a wonderful OT named Rose Stamm. She is based in El Cerrito: 510 215 7615. Best of luck! Deena


The description of your daughter could easily have described me from ages 4-11. While my particular issues with clothing were different, overall the problem was the same -- my clothes terrorized me (at least that's how it felt), and by extension, my parents.

I remember fighting about shoes in particular and feeling like my parents did not fully grasp how unbearable certain things were for me to wear. It sounds like you are sympathetic, and it probably helps your daughter to know that you are trying to find things that are comfortable to her.

Unfortunately, I don't have any practical advice for you, except to say that I gradually overcame each sensitivity and had no remaining issues by middle school (sorry if that seems like an impossibly long time from now). My parents developed work-arounds for clothes to make them bearable to me (kind of like the seamless socks you mentioned), and then I just gradually got over it.

I'm now in my mid-thirties, so I doubt my parents tried any interventions back then, but maybe an OT could help with processing frustration and figuring out ways to alter clothes to make them comfortable. Anon


Read/listen to ''How to Sit Like a Frog.'' It's a wonderful book about kids and mindfulness. Has a CD that she and you can listen to together. It's been helpful for us and our kids. Anon


That is really great that you are accommodating your child's sensory needs. Seamless socks, leggings that feel good to her, that is wonderful love and care. Regarding the length of the leggings, it sounds like time to hold that boundary ''These are the leggings we have, what do you want to do?'' Sometimes handing the problem back to a child and helping hold the space for their solving abilities is just the ticket. I work at a preschool and kids as young as two can do this really well, when they are trusted to find solutions. Wishing you and your daughter all the best. Azzia


Wow I could have written that exactly. I am sorry you have to go through this, it becomes so stressful - for both of you! It sounds like you are doing all the right things, buying a bunch of the same clothes if she likes it and so on. But even that doesn't work everyday, they are growing, or sometimes it just feels a little different and they can detect the slightest difference even of the identical item.

We are still struggling with this at age 10. In fact, my mother-in-law just bought my son his first regular pair of pants last week so for the first time in about 2 years he is wearing regular pants. For us, the waist is the worst area so sweat pants like leggings was a semi-solution but there are still variations. Socks, shoes, gloves, jackets, hats (we live where it is cold), underwear all cause daily meltdowns. About the only thing that is okay are shirts, except when summer hits and we have to switch from long sleeve to short.

One thing that did help was buying a hairbrush which he uses over his feet if he doesn't like the socks, this seems to help as he does it himself. The Occupational Therapist told him to do that so he tried it. If I had told him, he probably wouldn't have tried. The other thing that works sometimes is to try to distract him with other things, so that his whole attention isn't on the feeling of the item as he puts them on - a stick of gum to chew on, or I have him immediately stand up and jump 10 times.

We did OT for about 2 years and to be honest it was a total waste of time except for the last person we saw and it was just one appointment. Although I continually asked them to work on his dressing and sensitivities, they wouldn't. They might have him put his shoes on and of course there at the office he was fine so they concluded that there wasn't a problem, so I would be told I just need to be firmer. Well, since we have this problem every single day, I think it must be more than just being firm. Really sometimes I got the feeling that OTs had never actually had to LIVE with a person with extreme sensitivities.

So you may find it useful to talk to an OT and see if they will do an appointment just to consult on clothing issues. Sound sensitivities and for us light sensitivities all go together. Depending on what other issues you have, your daughter probably falls in the Sensitivity Processing Disorder. We have been working on this seriously for about 8 years but like you, the colic is a first sign. We also tried EVERYTHING else, this was my full time job as our lives were controlled by his sensitivities. GFCFSF diet helped with lots of things but not really the sensitivities. Nothing has really helped that. I console myself that most artists and creatives are like that. Good luck, it's not easy!


Try Wilbarger's brushing protocol (you can buy the brush on Amazon for about $8). This certainly sounds like sensory issues and you could try going for OT evaluation to get professional advice, but in my experience with my son, the OT thing is hit and miss in terms of useful advice you'll get, and the expense is high for both time and money the family has to spend on that process. I'd just try the brushing approach at home; it worked magic for my then 5yo son with the sock/shoe sensitivity (and I saw results after just 2 days, 5-6 brushing sessions). Also try explaining to your daughter in child-accessible terms that most people don't have this much trouble with the feel of their clothes, but her brain gets the panic signal from her skin when something feels a little unusual, and that brushing/massaging the skin will train it to not overreact. Another thing that helped us was messy play. My son was into running his toy cars through a tub of muck made from cornstarch, water and cocoa powder; hiding small 'treasures' in a tub of marbles, sand, wood chips etc can also be fun; the point is to get her arms in there so they lose the extra sensitivity at 3/4 sleeve mark. If she will play in the sand or dirt outside, that's great too. In our case, we did this kind of play and OT visits for a year; can't tell how much that helped. Did the brushing protocol for just a few days and it definitely helped. And when my son got close to 6yo suddenly something clicked for him, and a whole lot of things stopped being a problem, tactile sensitivity included. Mind you, buying shoes is still a huge problem, he's going on 8yo and spends year round in crocs, but we just live with that.


Hello, I just had to answer to your post. Both my children (boy and girl) have tactile sensory issues and were eventually diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disorder. So here is my advice:

1) Get her clothes that she is comfortable in! Once you found a leggings she likes, buy 5 of the size she wears now and 5 of the next size, same for shirts etc. I know this is hard, especially with girls. There are so many cute clothes - dresses, skirts, jeans, jackets, but you just have to make piece with the fact, that she'll only be wearing the same clothes all the time.

2) Find a good OT. I had a great one for my son, but then we moved and then I had a terrible experience with my daughter. Sorry, I can't recommend anyone since we don't live in the Bay Area anymore.

3) Here are some things I learned in OT: it's all about desensitizing. Meaning they have to experience tactile stimulation and learn to control to flood of stimuli that is so overwhelming to them. Massages are great, but they should always be with a firm touch. Get her things that enticing to play with and include a lot of tactile stimuli: play dough, kinetic sand, finger paint, play with shaving foam on a mirror, get outside and play with mud/sand/water, a hairy squishy ball, make pizza with your hands (kneading dough, touching the sauce and other ingredients). Try to increase the time she is exposed to these stimuli. If she is having a very hard time enduring any of these, try having her sit in your lap and holding her firmly. The OT used ''hammock swings'' for the child to sit in - if the have a feeling of being tightly ''wrapped'' they can better stand the overwhelming stimuli.

4)Make sure her skin is well moisturized. She probably hates lotion, but still if her skin is dry clothes etc. are going to ''hurt'' even more.

5) Most kids outgrow this - at least to a point where you can leave the house in morning on time and without a tantrum. My best wishes, Laura


I missed the original post so not sure if this is relevant. Something that helped my son was having him sleep in his clothes. He puts on clean sweatpants and shirt at night, sleeps in them and wakes up dressed for school. That didn't resolve all his issues with feeling comfortable in his clothes but it's helped. This too shall pass


I think an evaluation by an OT would definitely be helpful. Meanwhile, you can get a lot of info by googling Sensory Processing Disorder. Whether or not your daughter has this official diagnosis, she's dealing with issues of that sort. Two books that are an easy read and have helpful, practical strategies are The Out-of-Sync Child and The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun. anon


3 year old's comfort issues with his clothes

Dec 2009

our 3 year old is driving us nuts with his clothing issues. We are not really sure why but he constantly complains when we put on clothes that they are not on right. For example -Sleeves have to be rolled up in a particular way ; we have to put on his shoes and socks repeatedly so there are no ''bumps'' ;. He complains constantly about Clothes with ''bumps'' (just the natural bunching that occurs say like in the elbow of a sweater) . When we finally do get it done to his satisfaction we are not even sure what it is that made it right.

Most days we just let him wear pjs all day as he likes those but when we do have to get him dressed its a real challenge with him screaming that we are not doing it right. I've talked to his pediatrician about sensory integration issues on a prior occasion before this behavior started (he has other mild indicators of this since a young age)- she doesn't think its that; and tags in clothes don't bug him, and if he's busy playing then he forgets about his clothes entirely then too.

Anyone run into this before and how did you deal with it (besides just not getting them dressed at all)? thanks all ''bumped'' out


Pick your battles carefully Mom....Your son is very tactiley(sp?) sensitive. I have one of those. My son will not wear jeans...too stiff, he hates the feeling of the seams, the stiff fabric, etc. He also will not wear long sleeved shirts...t-shirts ONLY (he's 14 and this hasn't changed). He wears clothes to bed. He dresses in a certain order, can't have any tight collars near his neck....I could go on. Imagine what it would be like for you to HAVE to wear whatever thing you find most uncomfortable, because someone says you ahve to wear it...that's what it's like for your son to have bumps in his socks. As he gets older he'll figure out what works and doesn't work that fits into his ''public'' life, but make it easy for him now. Good luck, mom of sensitive kid


It sure sounds like tactile defensiveness--a sensory integration issue. Pediatricians (even developmental pedis) don't always know about these syndromes. You can ask for a referral to an occupational therapist--this is their domain. Mom of boy with Sensory Integration Disorder and Asperger's


Your child sounds like he might have Sensory Integration Dysfunction issues. I wish someone had clued me in when my son's discomfort with anything new, slightly different- feeling, or not tight enough (shoes) when he was 3. This condition can go with other issues or be just by itself (so don't panic that there's something bigger but be alert in case there is). Sensory integration can make a kid ultra sensitive (like ours), fussy, needing to fidgit or get up periodically at school (we got permission for a special cushion and fidgit toys & breaks), sounds can also seem ultra loud, balance can be off, and other issues. There are tons of products out there for these specific issues. First, Google Sensory Integration, & get a copy of ''The Out of Synch Child'' or other similar books, to decide which sensory issues sound like your kid. Then get a referral to a qualified specialist O.T. We went to an amazing Occupational Therapist named Susan Campidonico at Alta Bates/Herrick for fun and productive weekly sessions for a year. Mom or Dad should attend and watch/participate to learn to replicate the fun exercises at home. She first tests the kid to see what is up. Then she works on balance/dizziness, touch sensitivity, coordination and other issues. She discovered my boy also had eye-tracking problems which were essentially cured by a computer game type program at UC Berkeley optho Clinic. These therapies helped tremendously! And it helped us understand he was not just being difficult when he wanted to wear the same shirt every day for a year! SI mom


My son was the same, but he was around 4. He really wanted flat pants...i.e. leggings or PJ pants. He insisted on PJs and didn't want pants with strings or pockets. We made the point that he could where a PJ top, but he had to wear regular pants. When it got frustrating, we told him he needs to come shoppping to find pants he likes. His choosing them helped some, but not always. When he started Kindergarten, we told him they didn't allow PJ tops at school, so we went and shopped for ''cool'' shirts and he was receptive. After a year of PJ tops only I was actually a little sad I had forced the issue, but it's good for him to see the other options are good as well. Now sometimes he gets to wear a PJ shirt with a short sleeve shirt over which is good on these chilly days. On weekends he often wears PJs all day. 3 is a little more difficult but maybe picking them out will help. Leggings may be a good alternative to PJ pants and they are still gender neutral until around 5. Good luck. mom pf PJ lovin' boy


My son had these issues. I remember trying to walk down the street with him when he was a preschooler and we had to stop every 5 steps so he could take off his shoes and adjust his socks. So aggravating! The simple solution to that was tube socks. And finding the right pair of shoes. He refused to wear any pants but sweatpants until he was well into middle school, usually without underpants, as I found out later (yuck!). And of course all the tags had to be cut out of his t-shirts. Throughout middle school and high school it was all about a too-big hoody that he could snuggle in to. He loved soft, fluffy, silky things, and it was actually quite a lot of fun to come across a jacket, or sheets for his bed, that would make him really happy. Don't worry about this too much. My son is now a young adult, is artsy, and fun to be around, and a very stylish dresser who shops thrift stores for his hipster look. Ironically, he will wear pants or shoes that are really too small or too tight, and scratchy man-made fabrics from the 70's. haha go figure


Just so you know, I fall firmly into the 'practical' camp of parenthood-- so if it were me, and my kid had no problems being in PJ's all day, but needed to be in 'real' clothes for some reason, I would just get bigger clothes and put them over the PJ's-- especially for the next 6 months or so during the winter. just an idea


My son is the same way. I have cut all the 'corners' out of his socks because the seams there bug him. He doesn't like long sleeve shirts because the cuffs bug his wrists. He will wear jackets, though. Now that it's cold, I put him in an undershirt with his short sleeve t-shirt. I guess I anticipate having to make it right, and I make a big deal about how I'm going to fix it once it's on. It takes a ton of patience, but he'll probably outgrow it eventually. mom


Have you read ''Raising Your Spirited Child''? It helped us a lot... It Will Get Easier!


Hi there, It may be sensory integration, so I'd start with an OT who specializes in SI, it may just be developmental, it may be mild obsessive-compulsive or autism spectrum issues, in which case get him checked out by the Regional Center...tel 510.383-1200. Good luck!


Despite what your pediatrician said, I don't think I would rule out SPD. There seems to be a lot of variation in how it presents itself. For my son, who has sensory integration issues (formally diagnosed), clothing has always been a HUGE issue for us. And since hindsight is 20/20, I would HIGHLY recommend not fighting it and just go with it by making the accommodations. (3 was particularly hard for us too with the clothing). I wish I had not tried to fight it so much and just recognized that was what he needed. Tags were sometimes, but not often, the issue for us.Something as you described is much more similar to the issues we have dealt with. So I eventually bought several pairs of the one style of pants he would wear, the one type of socks he would wear, etc. And yes, even still we get the ''it isn't right!'' meltdown when we were sure we anticipated and prepared for everything. There is a lot of ''management'' that goes into well, everything, but it has lessened over time. I would suggest keep doing what you're doing by letting your son wear pajamas when it's reasonable, maybe gradually trying to get him to wear pajamas under other clothes or trying to find some other compromise. I just got an REI-brand long underwear shirt that is great - and snug enough- that could easily pass as an everyday shirt. Some people may tell you that your son is just trying to manipulate you but if as you said, he has shown some other indicators of SPD, and if your gut tells you that he truly is not comfortable,then it might be worth exploring SPD further. Your son's not paying attention to the clothes when he's busy playing may perhaps be a situation when his body is getting the right sensory input it needs so he is able to manage better. 10 pairs of the same ''soft'' pants


Can't leave house b/c 3 y.o. won't wear clothes

Feb 2009

I'm writing for my best friend, who lives in SF and has a 3 1/2 year old daughter who won't wear clothes. It's been almost three weeks so far. They're seeing psychiatrists, etc but so far it looks like it's going to be a very long, deep psychological battle that may be connected to their daughter's extreme constipation. In the meantime, she and her husband are trading off being house-bound with their daughter. They can't take her to preschool, stores, restaurants,or anywhere, because she won't wear even underwear or a diaper. Has anyone had a child go through something similar? And if you did, how did you leave the house? I thought there might be places in Berkeley that were less judgmental about a naked child (my friend feels very unwelcome at her neighborhood parks and playgrounds). I'm encouraging her to come to our house and play with my kids, but any suggestions about coping, or about places to go or things to do, would be really welcome. wanting to help


Although I cannot suggest anything for keeping a 3 yo clothes, I realized that if the parents are taking turns, they must not get time outside of the house together. Maybe they could hire a babysitter, or drop her at your house to help them get a break. It must be extremely frustrating (more than usual) for them not to get any time together other than at home. Anon


I am wondering if this was a joke post? It seems so unreal to me. In many ways, we should allow kids their space to make choices, but there are times when you absolutely have to draw a firm line and force the issue. If this is a true issue, they are letting her control everything and letting her disempower them. They are the parents. The parents' job is to guide and create boundaries. That's not the child's job. If they give in on this, they are setting her up for huge problems down the road. Society has unspoken rules that we all agree to, to take part. It will be a rude awakening if she is not taught that we sometimes have to compromise and must learn to cope with not always getting our way. Do they also let her touch the hot stove because she insists that she's going to?


won't put clothes on and is constipated? red flags for sensory processing disorder. Try removing casein and gluten (basically milk & wheat although more complicated than that). If that's overwhelming, start with the milk as it only takes 3 days for the casein to get out of the system and to see any changes. Google to get more info. anon


I think I would first address the constipation issue. Why is this child severely constipated for 3 weeks straight? Your friend should be looking at her diet and make whatever changes are necessary so her babe is pooping regularly. Then things might change. I think trying to figure out how to get her to wear clothes is going at it from the wrong angle. been there myself


In that household, the parents are allowing the child to call the shots. If they wish to solve that problem, they should inform the child that going naked is not an option. She may be allowed to choose her clothing. But if she refuses to get dressed, the parents should simply dress her. If she has a tantrum, so be it. Hell, let her have several. I will add that the parents are making a much bigger deal about this than is necessary or appropriate (a psychiatrist?!), and are attributing a great deal of power to a very little girl. Call me traditional, but I think a child of that age should not be running the household. anon.


This sounds like a lot of things going on. My first reaction was there might be some skin issue but after the constipation statement it made me think more clearly on an allergy/auto- immune issue. This child has a great deal of discomfort and I suspect that psychiatry is not the appropriate route. I suspect that there is a physical cause not a mental one. I found my pediatrician to be singularly unhelpful with constipation issues and found an osteopath quite helpful. I might try a homeopath or naturopath too. And frankly, I would try to see an allergist. concerned


I had a severe and unrelenting rash when I was a baby and couldn't wear diapers; I was just reflecting on the trouble this must have given my parents. Of course, people were scandalized. Nonetheless, we went out in public, I survived, and so did they. Not knowing the child or parents, I may be off the mark, but it seems to me that framing this as a ''deep-seated psychological problem'' could make this into a bigger and longer-lasting problem than it needs to be. It may simply be a developmental stage and a power struggle--the fact that the child is able to control her parents by refusing may be the big pay-off. Saying ''no'' is really rewarding at this age! I'm doing child care for a 3 and 5 year old in San Francisco right now, so my suggestion would be that your friends take her out to a kid's playground and tell other parents she has a skin condition that makes wearing clothes impossible (psoriasis?). Why? Because it's winter, and the cold will teach their daughter that we wear clothes because it's more comfortable than being nude! Let her learn from experience, since she does not wish to listen to her parents. Yes, there is the risk she could get a cold, but IMHO the long-term consequences of letting a 3 year old learn how easy it is to run her parents' lives are much worse. Other parents may disapprove but she's not their responsibility. Re the constipation--have they tried Metamucil or fiber tablets? Or prune pudding, or sneaking prune paste into brownies? Get that girl some fiber and she'll be a lot less cranky! Former Child Nudist


Dear Concerned About Three Year Old who Won't Wear Clothes,

Your worry is evident from the empathetic tone of your post. (And I can only imagine the parents feel something similar!) But, please, take a moment to think about what you've written: A three year old is controlling the household activities to the extent that the parents are housebound. I understand (thoroughly...) about high needs babies and toddlers; I have lived with both a brother and father with mental disorders and disabilities (know ALL about psychiatrists!... and also understand when intervention is really necessary); I've worked with kids and adults with disabilities. So, please understand me, I do KNOW something about what I say... and I still say... your friends are letting a toddler control the household to an unhealthy and unnatural degree. (And I've diapered a sixteen year old... I also know about kicking and screaming... and something about persistence, too.)

(And on a sidenote, yes, Berkeley is full of us crazies with strange ideas but believe me when I say, a completely naked toddler will still be looked at askance... my own high-needs kid took his pants off at the park today (which I immediately put back on, by the way) and got some pretty strange looks. Aside from which, it's February and really cold!)

Please, please support your friends in getting THEM the help they need to parents their child effectively! Best to you Fellow Mom


When I saw this message, I forwarded it to a friend in SF who had similar issues with her now 3-year old daughter. Here is her response:

When I read this email it sent me right back to the horror that was last year with our (then) 2.5 year old daughter. It was as this writer's friend described. I could not get a stitch of clothing on my daughter for about a month; during that time, I was unable to leave the house unless my husband was home to stay home with our naked daughter. I was already suffering from depression due to my daughter being difficult, and this put me over the line, and I had to seek immediate emergency psychological help, fearing that I was in grave danger of harming my daughter and myself.

It is almost impossible to explain to people who have not going through a similar thing what this is like. It sounds like such a small problem! And many children are not easy to dress; this makes it easy for others to dismiss your problem as silly or small or common, and you feel even guiltier and crazier for not being able to do something as simple as dress your child. But I have been there, and I can assure you, you are not imagining it. It is not possible to put or keep clothing on a child old enough to take it off and fight with you, not without using abusive physical force or threats of same. The fights over clothing can ruin your life.

Your daughter is not crazy. There is a very real problem that is preventing her from allowing you to dress her. With our daughter, it turned out to be an intense case of Sensory Integration Disorder. Clothing feels uncomfortable to her, but the main problem with getting her dressed during the ''evil time'' turned out to be how much she hated the sun in her eyes. Once I stopped fighting with her over getting dressed and started asking questions, once we figured this out, we bought her a baseball cap. And the next day we were able to put on some very loose clothing and the cap and leave the house together, and I stood on the street with her and cried, and cried and cried. We still struggle daily with clothing; my daughter will not wear long sleeves or pants or socks or any shoes other than Crocs, but we leave the house, every day, dressed.

With the girl described, will she wear ANYTHING? Can you wrap her in blankets and have her sit in a stroller and get out that way? Will she wear very very loose clothing, or conversely, tight clothing like leggings and tight shirts? Can you dress her in princess dresses or other favored costumes? Are there any textures she responds to: velvet, satin, terry? Any clothing made of a texture she favors? Anything smooth inside, with no or few tags/seams? Have people suggested Sensory Integration Disorder, as that is often connected with potty training issues? How about leotards, bathing suits, bathrobes, pajamas, anything at all that will cover her? Animal costumes, like bear costumes? I know this all sounds crazy, but these are things that have worked from the parents of SI kids we know.

Our watershed moment was the Baseball Cap Day. Your friend will have your watershed moment, once she figures out *why* her daughter is refusing to get dressed. Naturally, I suspect sensory problems, but there could be other issues. Whatever it is, I wish her luck from the bottom of my heart and I would be happy to talk to your friend, or anyone else going through this. You are not crazy, your kids are not crazy, and this is not your fault. Other people have survived,. I would also always be willing to have my own 3.5 yo play with naked kids, no problems here! Come on out to the park, with your lil naked girl. I'll be the mom giving you that ''been there'' look. Tara


Berkeley might be more tolerant of a naked three year old in public.. in winter?? Maybe in the 1970s but not today! Poor kid... she is keeping her parents hostage! I would recommend some potty training books, laxatives (ask the pediatrician, there are many options), etc. And don't be held hostage by a preschooler! I have been known to put my child into her car seat naked or half naked and tell her we are still going to xyz... she will decide pretty quick to get dressed. Good Luck!


I have a son who has a lot of sensory issues, and my husband and I did feel trapped in our home because our son was so difficult to go out with. But for all of the parents that think the child is controling them, I'm telling you that this is simply not the case. If a child has strong sensory issues, which I'm guessing this little girl may have, it is extremely difficult to do a lot of the ''normal'' things that parents may take for granted. Before my son started therapy, whenever we would go somewhere new, my son would scream and cry. NOTHING would work. Yes, I felt like a bad parent and I felt like I just had a bad kid. I was miserable.

For the parents and friend of the child, I will let you know that within six months of identifying the issues with my son, and getting help through occupational therapy and diet, my son was so much better, and it changed our lives. My son also had extreme constipation, and we tried all of the laxative products, but nothing worked. As one responder suggested, our son is on a gluten-free and casein-free diet, and while it did take awhile to see the benefits, my son is no longer constipated. I wish you the best of luck. It can be a very isolating experience, but if you get the right help, I can assure you, it will get better. Understanding Mom



Hi! I have been through almost the same few years ago. My daughter walked around naked for few summers. Sometimes she wore a loose dress and rain boots. In the winter we had terrible, terrible fights b.c. I had to force her to wear layers of winter clothes (we lived in cold climate). I realized later that she has very sensitive skin. Now we are doing great since I know what she wears and don't try to make her wear anything that does not feel right. We like crocs, flip flops and rain boots. Soft cotton dresses and soft leggings (only one brand fits and feels right). Crew necks only. Absolutely no jeans, pants, shorts, skorts, sweaters of any kind, turtle necks, collars, halter tops or snickers. No matter how trivial it seems to me, I try to listen what feels good against her skin. For a rather long time I thought we had severe psychological issues. I wish I would had thought about sensitive skin earlier. I'm so happy to live in California now, not having to wiggle her into snow gear every morning. Good luck!
 


4yr old clothing sensitivities

Feb 2004

HELP! My 4.5 year old son is having major clothing and shoe sensitivity issues. The clothes are ''too itchy'', ''too bumpy'', ''too big'', ''too small'', etc.The shoes are ''too tight'', ''too loose'', etc. You get the picture. I have purchased new sweat pants and shoes to try to solve this problem, but to no avail! Sometimes it's a wonder we get out of the house to pre-school. Does anyone out there have experience with this and tips that worked for them? I know this is a stage (his brother went through a bumpy sock thing) but I need help getting through it while maintaining my sanity. Thanks!


Try having him rub himself all over with a textured towel before dressing. Stick to 100 percent cotton, preferably with flat-lock seams. Look for seamless socks, or try having him wear his socks inside-out so the seams aren't right against his skin. Experiment some to find out what is most comfortable- Some kids prefer long pants/sleeves, others are more comfortable in shorts and t-shirts all year round. Some prefer snugger fitting clothes so they don't ''tickle'' (if that's the case, a little lycra might be good), others prefer a looser fit. If he has other sensitivity issues (dislikes textured foods, toothbrushing, loud noises, etc., or either hates or can't get enough of spinning rides, swings, etc.) you should consider having him evaluated by a pediatric occupational therapist. R.K., O.T.


I highly recommend the book ''Your highly sensitive Child'' and also books about children's temperament. Sounds like your son is high on sensory sensitivity. I would buy him very soft, well fitted clothes. I do the same for my sweet, sensitive son. Anon