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Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Autism Wardrobe---Dressing Janey

You would think that clothes would be one of the areas where kids with autism and others would not be too different.  There isn't an autism uniform.  But as I was thinking today when shopping for Janey, there are actually a lot of issues involved in clothes.

First of all, there's the toilet training issue.  Janey is not fully trained.  She is much better than she used to be, but far from completely successful at using the potty.  That causes a couple clothes problems.  One is the need to make her clothes easy to get off, for her or for anyone else helping her with the bathroom.  Elastic waists are important.  You can't use belts or complicated flies or buckles.  Also, not many clothes for an 8 year old are made to work well with diapers (or pullups, or overnights, or the various names diapers for bigger kids are called).  She needs high waisted pants that aren't extra tight.  Today's fashion seems to call for low waists, and so many pants I've tried for her don't cover the pullup.  She also has lots of accidents, even with pullups on, that cause her clothes to be soaked.  So the clothes need to be easily washable---no hand wash sweaters or the like.

Then there's her habit of mouthing things or fidgeting around with things.  Clothes can't have anything easily pulled off or put in the mouth, like hanging decorations or big buttons.  Zip front hoodies or tops or sweaters are also a very bad idea.  I don't know how many times Janey has ruined a zipper on first wearing of a piece, by zipping and unzipping all day long and getting it stuck.  She also occasionally gets into biting her sleeves---thankfully not all the time, but when she does, you need some thick sleeves to not rip them all to pieces right away.

The next thought is age-appropriateness.  In one way, it's a mother's dream to have a child that doesn't have clothing preferences and knows nothing about fashion.  I can dress her however I want.  However, that can mean that I dress her unlike her peers, because that's what I like.  I am not going to dress her like a mini-streetwalker, as fashion sometimes seems to dictates for even pre-teens lately, but I don't want to dress her all in cute little outfits that would look good on a 2 year old either.  I try to keep a little eye on what other girls her age are wearing, and get her clothes that are somewhat like them, within reason.  But if I mess up, and dress her in some horrible fashion no-no, she's not going to notice and tell me.  It's all on me.

And then there's just little oddities she has.  She is not nearly as tactilely defensive as I know a lot of kids with autism are, so the textures of the clothes are not as important as with some kids like her, but she occasionally just doesn't like something, and won't wear it.  Which is of course something all kids do, but with Janey, I have no idea why, and so can't learn from it to avoid getting her other clothes like the offensive one.  She also gets, once in a long while, hugely attacted to a certain piece.  For a long time, it was a rainbow top, with rows of sparkly rainbow sequins.  I hated it, of course, but she managed to find it all the time, even in laundry baskets, and had no understanding of dirty clothes or clean clothes or weather---she just knew she wanted it on.

Janey's favorite thing to wear, though, is as little as possible.  As she get older, we are getting stricter about her keeping her clothes on.  I guess a lot of kids on the spectrum like to do a Lady Godiva act, but she is getting close to the age where it just can't ever happen.  She does seem to get that she can't take off clothes at school, but at home, she still often tries.  Last summer, we came in from playing outside the minute she tried to take off any clothing, and I hope that made an impression on her.  It's a struggle.

Still, with all of this, I am thrilled to have a little girl to dress.  I have to admit, after two boys, it was one of my first thoughts when I found out Janey was a girl that finally I would be able to have a reason to look at the dresses in stores!  And I have had a lot of fun dressing her over the years, and I will in the future.  It's one of those areas with a trade-off.  I'm not going to having to forbid clothes much.  They will be up to me.  And I hope I do a good job being Janey's dresser.


jeffreymwhite1 said...

Found your blog from a google search for autistic girls. I am in love. I love your writing style, your honesty, and the variety of topics. Though Elinore (age 4) has "mild" autism, we struggle with some of the same issues, and keeping clothes on her is one of the big ones! She does seem to understand they are required outside the house, but I hate the struggle to keep clothes on at home. ~Kathy

Suzanne said...

Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words! The clothes issue is huge---it's great to hear someone else has that problem (although of course not great that you do!) I wish I could say I bet it will get better as Elinore gets older, but I don't see any signs of that with Janey. I don't know how she doesn't freeze to death some days. The only good part is it can sometimes make getting to the potty easier for her!

Jess said...

I am pretty careful with the clothes I buy for Ciena. Basically, I refuse to buy anything new. If there are buttons to be ripped off and a lower neck line to be stretched down I won't even look at it. Honestly, Ciena has gotten better in the past few years that we've been a family. But it's still hard to see her wreck her clothes. ALTHOUGH, you are right, it is fun to dress a girl no matter what! I pick out Ciena's outfits most days and it's fun to get a little creative with it.

Suzanne said...

I buy very little new also---I'm a bit of a thrift store fanatic. But it seems as Janey is hitting around size 8 or 10, it's harder to find good used clothes for her, and her school requires a uniform (blue or khaki pants, white or blue shirts) which are also hard to find used. I keep trying, though, because as you said, it's not a great feeling to spend the crazy amount clothes cost and have them ruined the first time!

sara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sara said...

Do they have "Naartjie" where you live? Stores & online... Adorable, plus all the jeans/cords are elastic waist, and they are inexpensive for clothes that cute...things are in the $10-$20 range. They go up to size 10, but it's all quite big, could easily fit up to a 12 I'd say. Lots of leggings and tunics too, which I like because I don't like to draw attention to the diaper now that she's almost 5 and not potty trained yet.

Suzanne said...

I've never seen their store, but I've found them now and again at thrift stores, and in fact Janey is wearing a top by them today! I'll have to look them up online. Janey is getting close to size 10, and that scares me, as clothes over that size work even less well with diapers than the ones she fits in now.