Thursday 26 January 2023

The clothing of an autistic teenager

Teenager wearing hoodie

Anthony is rapidly heading towards his 15th birthday.  He is well and truly into his teenage years and it shows.  He is changing all the time - he's now way taller than me, struggles with his new array of emotions and constantly wants to assert his independence (when before everything was help me).  But even as a relatively well functioning autistic teen, change is challenging.  And to top it all off the wardrobe of a teen changes too. 

Clothes as protection

Anthony literally uses his clothing as a way of making himself feel safe in the world.  Hoodie's are fashionable yes, but to Anthony it's also a way of physically separating himself from the things around him that feel scary.  Hood up, he looks like a bit of monochrome South Park Kenny lookalike.  With his hands in his pocket he can feel enclosed.  Sometimes this helps and sometimes it's difficult.  He's not sure what he will do when it comes to the summer and he needs to wear less though. 

At least he's comfortable with deodorant by using a great roll on deodorant designed for kids with sensitive skin called Pit Stop

Anthony also likes to cover his face.  There are lots of face masks for kids that are a bit smaller and fit better but he's in between sizes a bit so the adjustable ones work best at the moment.  They are made form different materials so you can find what might be more comfortable for you family and their sensory needs. 

We have some cotton ones that can be washed and this is good because it means that he can wear the same ones each time and they end up smelling like our normal laundry detergent instead of something else. 

You could also look at using something you already have as a face covering and this would be more familiar for your family too. We have several buffs which are multifunctional headwear that we use in the autumn and winter and these are thin, washable and easy to use as a face covering over you nose, mouth and chin.  

Clothing for comfort

Anthony used to say the tags in his clothes felt like he was being stabbed by spikes  and that when his clothes were crunched up around his waist it felt like he was wearing tin foil.  Coats often have hanging tags on them and we'll avoid these or cut them out - they all hang up via their hoods in our home.   Seamless clothing can make a huge difference to our kids. Both Jane and Anthony have used some seamless items.

Jane in particular has bamboo socks and tights with smooth toe seams and comfort cuffs and waist bands.  She always really struggled with the tight feeling she got around her calves when she wore knee high school socks.   Her tights have flatlocked seams on the inside and the waist band is a big elasticated honeycomb.  They look like regular smooth tights but are also smooth against her skin and soft against her waist.    Her scrunchy skirt waist band can then sit on top and not be so uncomfortable. 

A vest can also help Anthony avoid the scrunchy feeling of his trousers too. This can also be helpful if they feel the cold with some particular vests offering extra warmth.     

Clothes that help them adapt to teenage bodies

I've been an advocate of period pants for ages.  Girls may find these an easier way of dealing with periods that the challenges of constantly carrying and changing sanitary products.  WUKA even do a book to help learn about this change to their bodies.  There are also seamless crop tops or get bralettes here which are more comfortable and can help with the transition to bra's if or when it is needed. 

Many kids will find they are no longer in the 'kids' sizes and so are expected to wear adult clothing which misses out many the 'easy-on' features. However, Nike do a range of slip in and zip round trainers and skechers also do a rage of slip on trainers which means if laces are a problem there is a way around this.    The top button of shirts can be held in place with a velcro coin dot as this one is particularly difficult to do up too.

Growing up is challenging and anything I can do to help is worth it.  So if you've any tips of helping with clothing ideas for teenagers, autistic or neurotypical, I'd love to hear from you. 

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