I have two kids. My older one has SPD. My younger one doesn’t, but like many typical kids, he has tactile sensory sensitivities that are occasionally (okay, often) a nuisance. For instance, he doesn’t like having his hair combed. It’s been an issue since he was an infant. I’ve tried everything from using a hair detangler to distracting him with shiny objects and steak knives (kidding) to having him sing songs. A lot of times, I’ve just left his hair a tangled mess. As he approaches his sixth birthday, I feel him growing out of it, but boy has it been a journey!
Here’s another one. It’s a doozy. He loathes buttons, zippers, pockets, collars, belts, and any other item of clothing that isn’t a tagless, short-sleeved cotton t-shirt and mesh athletic shorts. This kid of mine is lucky he’s not a Kardashian. In other words, we keep things pretty casual in our family. We also live in a year-round warm climate, which lends itself to his personal style (or lack thereof).
The funny thing about his exasperating but common tactile challenge is that there was a time when his older brother, the one with SPD, WOULD NOT COULD NOT wear pants or long-sleeved shirts. (We now lovingly refer to that time as the Winter of Our Discontent.) Since he had an SPD diagnosis, though, he did a crap load of OT. These days, he’s still not a fan of dressing up, but he does it when it’s appropriate and necessary, and he also plays ice hockey…in full hockey gear!
My little guy, on the other hand, is a picky dresser of the worst kind, but without a diagnosis (is there a prescription for pain-in-the-butt-itis?) there isn’t much I can do except encourage, praise, bribe, and avoid Bar Mitzvahs.
A little over a year ago, I took him to my cousin’s wedding. It was a special weekend that included a super exciting airplane ride and a visit with Grandma and Grandpa, but I only agreed to take him if he swore on his life (pinky shake required) that he would dress appropriately. He whined and moaned, I had to buy him an extra-large pack of Trashies at the toy store, and he wore a super hero “button protector” (a t-shirt) under his “fancy” shirt, but, by golly, he did it.
The rehearsal dinner
During the long ago Winter of Our Discontent, my older son WOULD NOT HAVE COULD NOT HAVE worn these kinds of clothes even if I promised him a Disney Cruise or the Lego Death Star. The difference, by the way, between a picky dresser and a sensory dresser (or a picky eater and a sensory eater) is CURRENCY. There is no currency – no bargaining, no negotiating, and no bartering – with a child whose body cannot physically, neurologically, and emotionally tolerate fabric touching his skin (or food entering his mouth).
In May of this year, my little guy managed to wear this outfit to his Pre-K graduation.
The cap and gown was especially uncomfortable, but he got through it.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve just documented the two occasions that I can remember when my little one wore shoes that weren’t sneakers or Crocs. And technically, the rehearsal dinner and wedding shoes were sneakers.
All summer long, I worried (of course) about Kindergarten because the kids go to a school that requires a school uniform. I joked nervously to friends and family (except I wasn’t really joking) that my little guy would be kicked out of school for not adhering to the uniform code. I imagined him systematically undressing himself at school, pulling buttons off of his shirt, throwing his belt out a window, and leaving a trail of undesirable clothing down the hallway. I cringed thinking about how difficult the mornings would be and how often I’d have to bribe him to get dressed and out the door on time. I dreaded having a kid who, instead of enjoying the wonder and delight of Kindergarten, would be perpetually and negatively focused on what he had to wear.
On the first day of school at approximately 6:45 a.m. in the morning, I was totally and completely blindsided. My little guy stepped up big time. He got dressed like a champ (with a button protector, of course), and he did it with happiness and excitement about the day ahead.
First day of Kindergarten.
He’s been getting dressed without any (major) meltdowns for three weeks. I’m all about living in the moment (ha!), so I’ve taken several deep breaths filled with pride and relief. Now, I have my sights (and anxiety) set on his outfit for Kindergarten graduation and his first Ted talk on the long-term positive (I hope) social and academic outcomes of young boys who watch 3-4 4-5 5-6 hours per week of toy reviews on YouTube.
I hope you’ve all had a great start to school – buttons, zippers, pockets, collars, and belts and all!
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