My son hates clothes. If it were up to him, he’d be naked 24 hours a day. You are likely to come over in the summer months and see a naked 7 year old in the back yard, jumping on the trampoline or splashing in his little wading pool. I realize there will come a time when he reaches an age where I may not be so comfortable with my little back yard nudist.
I don’t make him wear much when we are just hanging out at the house, but he must wear some type of pants. There are two reasons for this--one is the little fact that he is not potty trained. It is bad enough to clean poop of the backside of a 7 year old child, it is quite another to clean it off of the rug, couch, walls, and anywhere else he might decide to rub his butt in his attempt to get it off of him.
We have actually made some progress in this area. It has been months since I had to clean up a major **** explosion. He has actually reached the point where 90% of the time he will bring me a fresh pull up when he needs changed. This is a huge step in the right direction, and gives me a tiny little spark of hope that one day we might progress to putting the poop directly in the toilet.
The second reason I don’t allow him to run around in his preferred state of naked is his obsession with his little penis. I know, all men are obsessed and this is nothing specific to my child. The fact is, in a civilized society you can’t just go around playing with your penis 24 hours a day. I realize every owner of a penis wants to play with it from time to time, but until he is able to understand that this is something one does alone, I have to limit his access to his favorite toy. It is maddening. Go play with one of the hundreds of toys I’ve bought you!
I have the hardest time keeping pants on him. He constantly removes them and I promise there are some days where I put them back on him 25 times. I am at the end of my rope, here. I made some progress for awhile there when I had the bright idea to put a belt on him. His motor skills are underdeveloped and he couldn’t manipulate the belt to get the pants off. Well, not anymore. We are back to him stripping every single chance he gets.
This might seem slightly amusing, and in a way I guess I can see why it might seem that way. The fact is, it is driving me insane. I totally think he understands that I don’t want him taking the pants off. The kid has autism, but he isn’t stupid. I am about to lose it. I am considering stapling the pants on. Or duct tape. Seriously, I don’t know what to do about this.
Here are some ideas to help this Mum
Why Do Some Children with Autism Dislike Clothing?
Why are children with autism so likely to strip? There are a few possible reasons:
They may be unusually sensitive to uncomfortable tactile sensations ranging from scratchy fabrics and tags to damp or sticky diapers or pull-ups.
• They may not be as aware as other children of the expectations placed upon them by the people around them.
• They may not be attuned to the idea of imitating their peers.
• They may need more tactile pressure or sensation than is provided by loose-fitting clothes.
• They may not be able to understand what is being asked of them by frustrated parents.
Given the reality that your child with autism may have some significant difficulties with keeping those clothes and diapers on, how should you respond? There are a few routes to take; start with the first and, if you’re not successful, try the next.
Solution 1: Find the Problem and Accommodate
Is your child’s propensity for stripping related to tactile issues?
Of course, your first concern will be to ensure that your child is not wet or poopy. If a dirty diaper is uncomfortable for a typical child, it can be unwearable for an autistic child. But if that’s not an issue, it’s time to search out some other possible answers to your question. If your child is verbal, you can ask him to explain his reasons for stripping.
You may need to be specific about your questions, asking NOT “are you uncomfortable?” but rather “is your shirt itchy? Where is the itchy place?” and so forth. Second, you can experiment by trying out different types of clothes and observing your child’s response.
If your child is responding to itchy or rough clothing, easy first steps are to remove all tags and clip any extraneous or uncomfortable bands or edges. Run your fingers over the clothing to be sure you’ve caught everything. If your child is uncomfortable in his diaper or pull-up, try another brand or choose soft cotton (though you will need a rubber or synthetic cover to keep your child dry).
If your child is responding to too-loose clothing (and some children with autism very much prefer tighter clothes that provide tactile feedback) you’ll need to choose clothes that give a little “squeeze.” The less expensive option is to choose “athletic” or swim shirts or shorts, leggings, or other lycra/spandex outfits. Other possibilities include more expensive, “autism-friendly” clothing such as a compression suit specifically made to provide a deep squeeze or a weighted vest.
Route 2: Use Behavioral Modification
If you can’t find any sensory problems you can solve, your next step should probably be a behavioural approach.
In essence, you need to train your child to keep his clothes on. This can be achieved through a few positive routes including:
• Instruction through the use of picture books and social stories;
• Modeling behaviour by calling attention to how peers stay dressed and use the bathroom;
• Positive reinforcement for good behaviour.
Some parents create sticker charts; when a child keeps his clothes on for X amount of time, he earns a star or a small treat. This is a tool borrowed from ABA (Applied Behavioral Therapy). You may even want to work with an ABA or other behavioral therapist to help you develop some behavior-based approaches to the problem.
Route 3: Find a Physical Solution
If neither Route 1 nor Route 2 work (or while you’re experimenting with either or both), you may need to find a physical way to keep your child from stripping down. Bottom line, you may need to make it physically impossible for your child to get his clothes off. How do you do that? The simple answer is: you choose and/or modify clothing so that it is difficult or impossible to remove. A few examples:
• Put all fasteners in back, so that your child can’t reach them
• Buy footed outfits (pajamas are the most common) and put them on backward
• Buy union suit style undergarments and put them on backward
• Modify zippers so that they can’t be easily unzipped (use a safety pin to pin the zipper in the up position)
• Replace snaps with more complex or sturdier fasteners
• Dress your child in layers so that it’s harder to strip
The good news is that the vast majority of children, with autism or without, do learn to keep their clothes on. Meanwhile, give these routes a try – and good luck!