Sensory-Friendly Winter Clothing
Wintertime is here, and with it comes clothing-related challenges for those with sensory sensitivities.
In this post, we share strategies to help keep sensory-sensitive kids comfortable throughout the cold weather season.
How to Help Kids with Autism or SPD Adapt to Winter Clothing
Start early. Incorporate warmer clothes into your daily routine early in the season so that the shift from summer clothes isn’t as jarring. Introduce one new piece of clothing at a time to avoid sensory overload.
Go shopping. If you are able to go shopping for clothes, have your children pick out cold weather clothes they love. This will help kids look forward to wearing jackets and other winter clothing when needed.
Create positive associations. Have your kids start wearing sweatshirts, jackets, and long pants as part of a fun activity instead of a stressful one.
Autism & Sensory Friendly Winter Clothing
There are a lot of adaptive cold weather clothing options for children with SPD or autism. Here are some items to consider to help sensory kids stay comfortable through the winter months:
- Base layers. Your child can wear shirts and pants they love as a base layer, which means favorite clothing items will create a barrier between the skin and any potentially scratchy materials. Alternatively, try long underwear as a base layer to prevent your child from feeling too restricted.
- Compression garments. Many sensory kids love compression shirts, shorts, and pants regardless of the season. Compression shirts are also a great alternative base layer in the winter. There are several companies that offer wide varieties of compression clothing for sensory kids.
- Weighted clothing. To help your child feel cozy and comfortable, try weighted clothing. Weighted clothing feels like the child is receiving a hug and helps promote body awareness and focus.
- Soft materials. Try to purchase clothing made from soft, lightweight materials. Fleece or terry cloth are perfect for children with sensory sensitivities, as the fabrics are warm and move with the body. Look for winter clothes made with cotton or that otherwise have a soft texture. Avoid wool or other potentially itchy fabrics.
- Seamless socks. If your child needs sensory socks, seamless socks are the way to go. Use them as either a base layer sock or on their own.
- Easy-to-use garments. Consider whether your child is more comfortable zipping coats or buttoning them, as this will make a big difference in getting your child to put on a jacket when it is cold outside! If you aren’t sure, go shopping together and try on different jacket styles.
- Fun Shapes. Who says mittens and hats have to look a certain way? For example, fluffy, colorful fleece gloves like these anemone sensory mittens keep children toasty and stop them from scratching themselves. Make fall and winter wear exciting by finding fun clothes.
- Have backups available. If your children have winter clothes they love, buy duplicates if you are able. The winter season will go a lot more smoothly if you don’t have to worry about getting out the door without the clothes your children enjoy wearing most.
Temperature Regulation and Autism
People with autism or sensory processing disorder may have difficulty regulating body temperature and adapting to changes of temperature within the environment. This can present as becoming hot or cold very quickly, even in environments that others may not perceive as extreme.
In the wintertime, temperature sensitivity and temperature regulation issues can manifest in a couple ways:
- Children who have trouble with temperature sensitivity may refuse to put a coat on even when the weather is very cold. They simply do not feel cold even if everyone around them does!
- Conversely, those with ASD may be overwhelmed by quick temperature changes, such as moving from the cold outdoors to a heated store, home, or car. Try wicking and anti-static base layers to help your child feel more comfortable when moving between cold and warm environments.
Static Electricity and Autism
Static electricity develops when pieces of clothing rub together. This commonly happens while clothes are in the dryer but also occurs when a child sits in a car seat, or any chair covered with a synthetic material.
Our bodies respond defensively to static electricity by raising the hair on our skin; this is an “alerting” form of attention generated by the tactile sense. This reaction shortens our attention span and induces the flight response. While experiencing our body’s reaction to static electricity is unpleasant for anyone, it is additionally unwelcome and disruptive for those with autism or SPD.
How to Reduce Static Electricity
- A wire hanger can take back some of the electric charge that causes your clothes to stick to you. Run a wire clothes hanger along the inside of clothes to reduce static electricity.
- Place a couple of dryer balls in your next load of laundry to minimize each item’s contact with others. As an alternative, try crumpling aluminum foil into plum-sized balls—they will work like dryer balls.
- Sometimes dry skin increases the static electricity effect, so rubbing a little bit of lotion on the areas where clothing clings the most could help reduce static.
- When your laundry load has about ten minutes left in the dryer, add a damp rag and continue drying on the lowest heat setting. Dry air contributes to static, but the wetness from the rag will keep the air moist.
- Mixing natural and synthetic fabrics, such as tights with a cotton skirt, can build up static electricity. Avoid outfits that mix the two, and prevent a buildup on clothes by keeping them separate in the dryer.
We hope these tips make the winter season easier for your whole family! The links in this post are not sponsored or affiliate content; these are simply suggestions to help you find comfortable winter clothing for your kids.
Sunny Days is one of the nation's leading early intervention and autism services providers, serving children with developmental needs in New York, Oklahoma, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania ,and Delaware. Founded in 1994, it currently has over 2,000 active practitioners. In the past two years, Sunny Days has provided well in excess of 1,000,000 individual sessions. Sunny Days was founded by two healthcare professionals — Joyce Salzberg, LCSW and Donna Maher, RN — whose passion for quality healthcare is core to its mission.
Mon-Fri 8:30 am - 7:30 pm
Sat-Sun 8:30 am - 3:00 pm