How do I get my child to keep his/her clothes on?

Hmmm, a good question.  Many little kids, on the spectrum or not, think clothing should be optional.  After all, we are born without clothes, right?  We made it nine months in the womb, happy, well fed, swimming around in amniotic fluid, totally naked.  No one looked at us on an ultrasound and gasped at our nudity.  But once we are born, society (unless you live in a nudist colony) expects us to wear clothes.  There are days I hate clothes.  There are days Boo hates clothes.  But we live in Minnesota where it is cold 8 or 9 months of the year, so we need them. So, what is a special needs mom supposed to do?

  • Cut out tags and labels, they are itchy.
  • Find socks without seams, seams are evil and they never line up right.
  • If your child has a favorite color (Boo loves the color red) buy clothes in that color.
  • If you find an article of clothing or a brand that your child tolerates or even likes, buy lots of it!  Buy it in different sizes for your child to grow into.
  • Zippers and buttons are hard.  Boo can’t manage them.  Sweat pants, shorts with elastic waist bands, t-shirts that pull over the head are easy, and allow more independence in the bathroom.  Boo will wear jeans, but only if they are well washed and soft.  He does need extra help getting them on and zipped.
  • Hoodies are another favorite.  They are warm, soft, and if the world gets too crazy, one can always pull the hood up over one’s head.

Finding out what your child will and will not wear takes a lot of trial and error.  For this reason, I shop sales at Target and second hand stores.  I will not pay full price for a child who is growing like a weed and may flat out refuse to wear a new article of clothing.

Now, this part may seem odd, but getting your child to stay clad takes practice and patience.  If you want to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata flawlessly, you have to work at it.  (I am still working on this one.)  It takes constant repetition to make things become a habit.  Little kids have to practice wearing and tolerating clothes.  So do bigger kids and some adults.  If you have a happy nudist on your hands, start small.  Tell your nudist that he/she has to wear clothes when he/she is out of the house.  Preferably, you should be out of the house doing something fun.  After all, going to the post office is dull, why should one keep one’s clothes on for that?  Going to Lego Land sounds much better.  Find something outside the home that your child wants to do, but make it contingent that clothes must stay on for the duration of the activity.  Sometimes, social stories about wearing clothes to Lego Land are helpful.  You can walk your child through the whole scenario of what you will see and do at Lego Land, while his/her clothes remain on! Also, it is often a good idea to bring along a back up pair of clothes while you are out and about.  Drinks spill, ice cream melts, catsup spurts out of hotdogs.  Boo does not mind stains on his shirts.  This might drive another spectrum kid out of his/her mind.  And, sometimes, no matter how well your child is trained, accidents happen.  Bring along another pair of pants and socks.  Obviously, your child is well past the stage of needing a diaper bag, but you still need to carry supplies.  I have found that a backpack works best.  Lots of people carry packs and this way your child will not be embarrassed.  While you are at it, stock the backpack with treats, a favorite toy, the ipad, noise cancelling headphones, or whatever else you might need to make the outside world more tolerable.

Inside the privacy of your own home, you can set your own rules regarding clothes; it all depends on what you are comfortable with.  Some families are just fine with nudity.  Others prefer that if their child is going to hang out in the buff, he/she does it in the privacy of his/her own bedroom.  On your own property, what your child wears or does not wear is up to you.  I will add one caveat: nudity is easier to handle if your child is fully toilet trained.  If your child is not trained, the clothes and the pull up need to stay on.  Before Boo was trained, the pull up would stay on, mostly, if he had clothes on top of it.  But, putting him in just a pull up on a hot day was a recipe for disaster.

Okay, so you have tried all these suggestions and your child is still blissfully nude.  What is a mom (or dad) to do?  Google special needs clothes.  There are companies out there that make fun, comfortable clothes that our kiddos can’t get out of (on Google or Amazon, try “anti-strip”).  Generally, they zip up the back and have a snap and a clasp over that.  They are close fitting, but great to play or sleep in.  A side note, these are also really useful for patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.  These clothes are a little on the pricey side, but well worth it if you have a kiddo who is adamant about being nude.

These are just a few suggestions that I have thrown out here.  I would love to hear from other folks about what they did to keep their child clad.  There is also the issue of how to keep your child in his/her pajamas at night, but that is a whole different post.  I will be talking about that in a few days.  In the mean time, if you have any clothes suggestions, please chime in.  Thanks!

Author: snort262

I am a wife, mom, long distance runner and fierce autism advocate. My background is in education. Currently, I am a nanny, a tutor, and an autism consultant.

2 thoughts on “How do I get my child to keep his/her clothes on?”

  1. Aaron was a nudist by preference until about age 5-6. After that he got the idea that being nude in public was “wrong”, and since he never wants to be wrong he stopped trying to get out of clothes. Then came the next battle. Getting him to shower and change clothes regularly. We’re still fighting that one. I’ve learned a few tricks- he will take a shower to get a massage, if I make it a requirement, and he hates having crud on his skin (grass, hair trimmings, sand, etc.), so getting him to garden or mow the lawn results in a shower after without having to arm wrestle him into it.


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