I cannot get my child to wear hats and gloves and other cold weather gear during the winter. Does anybody else feel this way?
Parents often mention how difficult it is to get their child with autism to wear and keep on hats, gloves and other winter weather apparel during the cold winter months. This can be quite a challenging task for parents since many children with autism often do not want to wear clothes that are different from what they typically wear on a day-to-day basis. Individuals with autism also present with a variety of sensory issues including tactile defensiveness. Getting your child to tolerate winter wear is no easy feat especially when you are trying to get out the door on a tight schedule. Here are a few tips to hopefully make this process less overwhelming for you and your child.
Children with autism often have a hyper- or hyposensitivity to certain materials and fits that can make it more difficult for them to tolerate wearing things on their heads, hands and over other clothing. If you have an idea of what kinds of sensations/textures your child does like, you may be able to find clothing with a certain fit or fabric that may be more appealing to your child. For example, your child may enjoy wearing gloves if they are made of a softer fleece versus insulated gloves that tend to have a bit of a rougher feel. Your child also may enjoy wearing clothing that fits more tightly. Some children with autism like the sensation of wearing something snug on their head and may prefer a winter hat that is a bit smaller while some children prefer looser fitting clothing with elastics that have been stretched out a bit.
Tackling rigidity can also be an obstacle when trying to get your child to wear seasonal clothing. Children with autism often do not like to wear additional clothing or clothing that they are not required to wear on a daily basis. Social stories and visuals can help with this. Pictures of certain types of clothing paired with the weather associated with that clothing may help some individuals understand the process a bit better and make it more meaningful to them.
The extra effort that you put in (and ask others to support, such as your child’s instructor) might have a wonderful payoff such as your child not only evidencing day-to-day improvements with wearing winter gear but also evidencing larger milestones such as outdoor family events that you might not have thought possible.
Stephanie Mariano Morin, BCBA
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