Why Does My Child Refuse to Wear Clothes?
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This is a common question in occupational therapy clinics in South Florida. It can also be a huge source of frustration for families.
This can range from parents trying to get their child to wear socks and sneakers to school, put on their school uniform, or wear short sleeves because it’s hot outside. Many parents worry about how their child will fare out in the community, if they will not wear the appropriate clothing.
· Will they not be able to attend school because they won’t wear the uniform?
· Will they put it on at home, only to be miserable and cry all day?
· Will they catch a cold because they won’t put on a jacket?
· Will they fall on the playground because they won’t wear sneakers?
In certain stages, like toddlerhood, refusing to do what parents ask is completely natural and common. However, a persistent refusal of specific fabrics and certain types of clothing, can be related to the sensory system.
Our sensory system is a part of our nervous system. When we look at something, touch something, etc., this information travels through our body up to the brain. The brain then interprets the information and decides how to respond accordingly. If the information is interpreted as harmful or dangerous, our body takes steps to “get away” from potential harm.
In the future, if our sensory system interpreted something as unpleasant, we continue to take steps to stay away from it.
So how does this pertain to clothing?
Can you think of a time where you work an item of clothing that had an unpleasant tag? At first maybe it just seemed a little irritating, but then it felt painful?
What did you do? Did you leave the tag there? Continually try to reposition the tag? Take of the clothing and cut the tag off?
Would you wear that piece of clothing exactly as it was again? Probably not.
It can be hard for kids to put into words what exactly is bothering them about a certain piece of clothing.
But, in order to help your child, get used to wearing new types of clothing, it’s important to get down to WHAT EXACTLY is causing them distress and slowly take steps to teach the sensory system that it is not “dangerous”.
This is something I HIGHLY recommend you work with an occupational therapist on, as OTs can provide a thorough assessment on the sensory system.
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Happy Tuesday, Sam
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