Why Is My Child Sensitive To Clothing?

One of the most common questions that parents ask us as occupational therapists is: “why is my child sensitive to her clothing?” Or, “why won’t my child putting shirt ondaughter wear jeans?” Or, “why doesn’t my child like to wear certain shoes and socks?”.  While this may seem like an odd behavior, it is not unusual in the life of a child who has Sensory Processing Disorder. More specifically, sensitivity to clothing is very common in the life of a child who has tactile defensiveness.

Below is a breakdown of tactile defensiveness and how it relates to your child’s clothing:

  • Sensory integration is the connection between your body and your brain. It tells you where you are in relation to space (body awareness) and allows you to process everything that is happening around you (e.g. sights, smells, noises, touch).
  • Sensory hypersensitivities, such as sensory defensiveness, can either be something that a child is born with or it can occur after birth/later in life due to any stress that disrupts the nervous system.
  • Touch receptors provide information to the body in relation to pressure, texture, temperature and pain.
  • A child who processes sensory input efficiently is not overly-bothered by others that touch her or by the clothing that touches her.
  • A child with tactile defensiveness perceives tactile input as being unpleasant or threatening to her body (e.g. clothing feels irritating and bothersome).
  • Areas of sensitivity vary from person to person; however, some parts of the body are usually more sensitive than others (e.g. hands are more sensitive than back).

Overall, as chicago occupational therapists, our goal is to help children with tactile defensiveness by re-training their brains to identify and process various tactile inputs appropriately. This is done in order to best engage in age appropriate activities, which includes wearing a variety of clothing. Stay tuned for my next blog in which will summarize therapeutic activities that occupational therapists use within your child’s sessions to address their tactile hypersensitivities.

Too Loud Too Bright Too Fast Too Tight: What to do if you are sensory defensive in an overstimulating world.” By Sharon Heller, Ph.D.
Sensory Integration and the Child: Understanding Hidden Sensory Challenges. 25th Anniversary Edition.” By A. Jean Ayres, Ph.D.

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