Another day of, “what do I wear?” You check the day’s weather, consider how you feel, what your plans are and what mood you’re in. All that contemplation in less than 2 minutes in most cases, for others, it’s a never ending question without a clear consistent answer.
Now, let’s consider your kids. Many of them waiting for the moment they get to pick out their ensembles for their day at school. However, all the aforementioned questions you deal with now become theirs in one overall question, “what’s everyone else wearing” OR depending on their age, how different can I be from everyone else? Who am I? How do I want to express myself?
For kiddos with autism, it might be some of the above combined with, “how does this feel on my skin?” “What patterns, colors, designs do I like or dislike?” regardless as to whether they “match” to the rest of the world… Overwhelm. It can look different and take on different forms for all of us, but universally, it just leaves the individual feeling helpless, frustrated, even lost in the idea of having to choose. After all, what will happen if we choose “incorrectly?” Will there be a repercussion of some sort? Will I be judged in some way? Will I be making some sort of statement about myself I didn’t intend to make? All these thoughts about making one simple decision… what do I wear?
You may think your child’s age has a lot to do with this topic, and of course, this is one of those issues that can become rather subjective. That being said, there is a thought process that isn’t based on your child’s age, but rather your approach as the parent, cheerleader, caregiver and protector.
Step out of your own experience and work on being in theirs. Period. I know that may not seem as easy as it sounds, but you must realize that what is obvious or makes sense to you most likely has nothing to do with what your child is considering as important to him/her.
Get rid of the phrase “you have to.” Kids are smart. They know the difference between “you have to” and “you get to.” “Have to” has only negative connotations. It states they are going to be told to do something they don’t/won’t want to do. Why set your child up for an anticipated negative experience? Why set yourself up as the bad guy making your child do something upsetting to them? (when it’s not necessary) There are so many “have to’s” in life, what we choose to wear doesn’t need to be one of them.
If you want to test the validity of what I’m saying, just replace the phrase “have to” like “I have to get dressed” with “I get to get dressed” it shifts your entire attitude… “Get to” is automatically a privilege. Why not remind your kids of that fact whenever you can!
You may be thinking, “sure, like it’s that easy” and no, I never said it was that easy – But I can say, it’s not really that hard. Here’s how to start.
Depending on age or ability – if they are desperate to pick out their own clothes, set them up for success. Make sure of a few things. Set their closet up in sections, almost like a silent “color code” – patterns in one, solids in another, all tops together, all bottoms together and take out the inappropriate clothing based on season. If you don’t want them selecting summer dresses and shorts and perseverating on them, then don’t make them available. Put them away before it becomes an issue. One of my favorite and most successful solutions has been to select 3 options and set them out for your child. Tell them they can choose from any of the items you laid out and they can even mix and match them changing them all around. That way, they have ownership, did “their own thing” and you feel certain that their creativity doesn’t put them in a position of inevitable, unnecessary ridicule. At the same time, if your child is older, allow them some leeway in discovering their personality and establish boundaries after you know they’re physically comfortable in anything they choose. You might even like utilizing these ideas as well.
Posted on August 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm by Lauren, your Sensory Design Specialist