We all have sensory qualities that make us who we are. However, when these neurological qualities interrupt our participation in life in a negative way, it should be recognized and accommodated. There are many children with an array of diagnoses that are subject to sensory hyper – or hypo-sensitivities, motor difficulties, and social differences including Autism and Aspergers, ADHD, Sensory Processing Disabilities, Anxiety, and many other Developmental Disabilities.
Why not make their clothing possess some of the very neuroscience qualities that could help enhance their social and emotional well being? As a mother of a child who suffered from sensory processing disorder and as a long time Sensory Pediatric Occupational Therapist and advocate, I know firsthand it is not easy for our children. Parents, therapists, and educators often express to me the benefits of weighed garments, chew objects, compression garments, and a child’s desire for soft materials. However, they frequently state that what is offered to them is too “therapeutic looking” and therefore stigmatizing. It’s hard to use many of these garments throughout “normal” life.
When a garment is being constructed to address children who suffer sensory processing difficulties, specific consideration should be made to address ease of function, tactile sensitivity, relevant design, safety, consistency in design for spatial orientation, and proprioceptive input (the unconscious awareness of sensations coming from receptor’s in one’s joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments). This helps promote independence as well as organization, alertness, and simplicity where quickness of dressing is often expected throughout the child’s day. When choosing a weighted vest or blanket for instance, it is significant to hear the child ask specifically for the “soft one,” the “cool one,” or the “nice one.” It is as significant to give their parents beautiful, easy to use, and superior fabrics that are relevant and stylish. It is the right of the child and their parents to have non-stigmatizing products.
Just as important is the idea of play, and accommodating products should express the darling nature and playfulness inherent in children. Respect, pleasure, playfulness, comfort, and a feeling of security are aspects that can be inherent in children’s clothing. As the design of the child’s apparel and play products are considered, it is important that as many of their personal characteristics are taken into consideration, in addition to the ability for children to take some therapeutic qualities along with them anywhere all day long. There are so many strategies that help a child with Sensory Processing Difficulties. Considering the aspects in their clothing is just another way a parent can simply use a non-invasive strategy aimed at helping their child and letting the child know that you understand and accept what they are feeling!
Susan Donohoe, OTR/L is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist with certification in Sensory Integration and an advocate for children with special needs. Susan graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has been practicing O.T. for 30 years. Through many years of active practice and working closely with educators, therapists, manufacturers, and experts in Design founded Kozie Clothes as a way to incorporate Neuroscience Principles into relevant designed apparel for children with special needs. With her passion and commitment, she developed the concept for a line of adorable coordinated sportswear and products that offer therapeutic value which are non-stigmatizing.