Getting Your Child with Autism to Wear Long Sleeves

With wintertime upon us, many meltdowns are occurring around the world. Why’s that? Because your child with autism is being told that he or she needs to wear a long sleeve shirt or jacket. Imagine that? The horror!

Why is it so challenging for your child to handle wearing a long-sleeve shirt?

There are many reasons for this including: a change in routine, tactile defensiveness, the material may be scratchy, his body temperature may not be the same as yours, or he just doesn’t understand why he has to wear it.

So, the question is, how do you get him to wear an item of clothing that may make him feel uncomfortable?

Encouraging your child to wear a long-sleeve shirt, just like most things in your life, is going to take the 4 P’s: preparation, practice, patience, and perseverance.

Let’s start with preparation. Look through magazines and online with your child. Talk about long-sleeve shirts and jackets, and how in the winter it’s important to stay warm. Explain that if he doesn’t wear a long-sleeve shirt, he is more likely to catch a cold.

Look at the weather channel or a weather app on your phone. Explain that when the temperature says approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to wear long sleeves. When the temperature goes below 50 degrees, wearing a jacket is a good idea. You can choose different temperatures and rules, based on the climate in your area and what you are comfortable with.

Write out a story using pictures and words and explain why it’s important to wear long sleeves.

Next, go the store with your child, and have him feel different types of fabrics. Let him choose a few different shirts. Have him try on the shirts and wear them around the store for a few minutes.

Now it’s time to practice. Bring the shirts home from the store, and let your child practice wearing them. The idea is to help him become more comfortable wearing the shirts before it actually gets cold out, so that he is prepared for the weather change.

You can make this activity even more fun for your child by video-recording him wearing the different shirts. Let him watch the video so that he can see what he looks like when he wears his new shirts.

You may consider choosing a specific time of day, and encouraging your child to wear the shirt during that timeframe. For example, first thing in the morning or in the evening (since that is usually when it is chilliest), are good times to practice.

Remember to be patient. This experience isn’t easy for your child, and he is trying the best he can. Respect his sensory challenges, and recognize his hardships with handling change. It can be difficult for you to not feel frustrated when it’s 20 degrees out and your child just wants to wear a tank-top. However, just breathe and keep trying to practice patience.

And finally, the more you practice these skills, stay patient, and believe in your child and yourself, the more likely that you will all persevere. You just need to keep trying and help your child through this challenging event in his life.

If you and your family are going through a difficult time, and you need some one-on-one guidance, Jennifer Lingle is now offering a one-time phone call to help you find solutions. Click here to learn more.

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