Home ADHD Survival Guide I Hate Pants – Living With Sensory Processing Disorder

I Hate Pants – Living With Sensory Processing Disorder

written by familyadhd

Sensory Processing Disorder Clothing Issues for Kids

Yes, deep down we probably all hate pants.

Who doesn’t enjoying peeling off their pants and slipping into pajamas (or strip down to their boxers in my guys’ cases) once they get home for the day?

But what if wearing pants didn’t just make you slightly irritated, it made your entire insides want to crawl out of your skin and run away screaming?

That, my friends, is what it’s like at times for my SPD kiddos!

The change of season can be a beautiful time of year. The weather gets cooler (or warmer) and you begin to look forward to all the things a new season brings … unless you have sensory processing disorder.

Clothing + Sensory Processing Disorder looks a little something like this:

Pants touch your whole legs—why?!!!

Shorts feel much better; they only touch half your legs. Let’s wear shorts even when it’s 40 degrees out!

Socks have to be seamless because seams are the devil. I have two pairs of socks I actually like, so I can just wear those every day, right?

Socks only have to be worn with sneakers, but sneakers take forever to put on and touch my entire foot, so can’t we get rid of both?

Flip-flops are awesome, let’s wear them year round … in New England.

Did you cut off my tags? I swear I feel tags!!!

Did you cut off anything that remotely resembles the bit of tag stuck inside the seam? You must remove all traces before my skin jumps off my body!

Again, why does everything have to have seams? Seams are awful! Don’t touch me, seams!

Why are you making me change again? I want to wear this even though it makes no sense and you’ve sent me upstairs to change three times!

Is this fabric smooth? Is it soft? Is it at all rough, crunchy, stiff or potentially upsetting?

Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!

Sensory Processing Disorder is a neurological disorder in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding typically to stimuli. This can result in stimulus avoidance or stimulus seeking. SPD isn’t just an indulgence in preferences, it’s a life-influencing disorder that can cause total nervous system meltdowns.

For kiddos with SPD, the change of seasons can be like scheduled torture. They spend months adjusting to one season only for another to come around. Unfortunately, my guys live with 4 very distinct seasons that vary greatly in New England, which means they have some pretty harsh transitioning to do every few months. They’re not fans!

 

It All Started…

Our SPD journey began when our oldest was a baby. As soon as he could communicate likes or dislikes he began to show clear preferences for super soft materials. The more he grew, the more aware we became of his sensory issues. People laughed when they watched me shop for clothing for him as I touched the fabrics to check for any textural issues, checked the seams to make sure they weren’t super thick or pokey and made sure everything overall had some give.

Then our second son came along. He was actually even more disturbed by different textures in clothing, foods, on his hands, etc.

I should have seen it coming! My husband has always had some serious sensory issues as well, so the writing was on the wall.

The older they got, the more they were able to vocalize what they liked and what they couldn’t possibly handle touching their skin–though the absolute meltdowns beforehand gave us some clues (I say that with sarcasm). Both boys also had other sensory issues including foods and sounds, but those are topics for another post.

 

Seasonal Torture

The worst clothing transition for our oldest has got to be the change from shorts to pants and t-shirts to jackets. Even though he’s 11, we still have to have discussions (or arguments) for weeks into the cooler seasons about why it’s inappropriate to wear shorts and t-shirts once it’s below 60 degrees out.

Some days I’d rather step on a LEGO than have that 5-10 minute discussion on the merits of wearing pants when it’s cold out. I’m completely convinced it would be less painful!

On the other hand, our youngest would wear jeans and a long-sleeve button-up year-round if we allowed him. It’s like living in the twilight zone sometimes!

If we lived somewhere a bit more temperate I’d be a little more lenient, but our temps drop so low starting in October (not to mention the super soggy weather) that it just isn’t healthy to be walking around outside in summer clothing. On the same note, temps can reach 100 in the summer and sweating until you pass out in your winter wardrobe isn’t a great option either.

And don’t get me started on the whole “Why can’t I wear flip flops year-round?” deal we have to go over with my oldest 6 months out of the year.

 

My Best SPD Advice

So what’s a sensory mom to do when the weather changes?

Well, as brutal as it can be, my only advice is to hang in there. Some aspects, from my experience, get a little better with time.

Try to find brands, cuts and fabrics that work for your sensory kiddo and then buy multiples of everything. If I find a shirt, pair of pants or type of sock that the boys love and don’t argue every step of the way over I buy several in different colors.

Some brands are definitely better quality and more sensory-friendly that others, in my experience.

When it comes to socks and boxers we’ve found Hanes to be one of the softest, most seam-free brands out there!

We tend to like a combo of the new Built-In Flex jeans from Old Navy for our oldest along with the comfy track pants that are in-trend from Adidas and Under Armour.

For our youngest, Gymboree has some of the only slim jeans that are actually small enough to fit him, so he wears a combo of those and the same comfy track pants our oldest wears—though it can be hard to find ones that are narrow enough at the waist.

Shirts generally have to come from moderately expensive brands in order to be soft enough for my guys to wear, which can be a little bit of a pain. We don’t purchase from a singular brand, but I do have to inspect the shirts and then have them try them on before purchasing if I want to avoid many returns.

If I buy something that they can’t stand having on their skin, they find the most magical ways of making them disappear. I don’t know where they go or how they do it, but I never see the clothing again. They could give Criss Angel a run for his money!

For those that don’t have kiddos with sensory processing disorder, this may sound like a case of picky, over-indulged children. I assure you, that isn’t the case.

Trust me, if there was a way I could get around their sensory issues without having to put so much time, money and effort into seasonal transitions and finding the right clothes, I would! But until you’ve seen a sensory kiddo writhe in anguish while having a complete nervous system break down … you have no idea how difficult it really is for them.

 

Judge Not

I think the statement that hits the biggest nerve is the always-delightful, “Oh, my son/daughter is exactly like that. It’s nothing special.”

Interesting. Well, either your son or daughter has a sensory processing issue that you haven’t addressed or you’re not fully understanding just how intense and all-encompassing the problem is.

When people make remarks like that I generally smile and move on. Who has time for that?

If you have sensory kiddos and you find other people judge you, dismiss you or insinuate that your kids are just spoiled, shake it off and keep on moving! Who cares if someone else can’t be bothered to understand what your child needs or has to cope with? At the end of the day, you have more important things to worry about than someone else’s opinions of your parenting.

We all know unsolicited parenting advice and opinions are as plentiful as pumpkin spice lattes in fall, so don’t waste energy worrying about them!

If you ever feel alone in this issue and just need somewhere to vent, comment below or find us on social media. We’re always down to talk SPD!

Do you have a child with sensory processing disorder? What do you find most difficult? What brands work the best for you?

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44 comments

robin rue October 25, 2017 at 5:22 am

My youngest son has sensory issues, but his main thing is that he hates being wet – which makes bath/shower time fun. He’s better now that he is 10, but it was a struggle for a while there.

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 12:50 pm

Oh man! I’m glad things have gotten a bit easier, but I can imagine how tough it was (and probably occasionally still is). My guys are the opposite, it’s really hard to get them to get out of the shower because they like the semi-sensory deprivation you get when in the shower.

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Alli Smith October 25, 2017 at 5:31 am

I didn’t know what it was called back then, but my son was like this (still is) when he was little. He can’t have tags in clothing. He tries to wear shorts year round so it’s a good thing we live in the south. Sensory issues are real!

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Absolutely! My husband was the same, but back then it wasn’t recognized the way it is now. Poor guys!

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Cherri Megasko October 25, 2017 at 6:04 am

I think getting the multiples in different colors for the items they like is an excellent solution. Heck, I even do that for myself when I find a piece of clothing I love!

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 12:51 pm

Yeah, I agree!

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candy October 25, 2017 at 7:31 am

One of my sons hates to wear pants. Everyone that knows him knows this. Never though about it being a sensory thing on his legs. Well I learn something new everyday.

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 12:52 pm

Interesting! If there’s nothing else he super avoids or is absolutely intense about seeking out it could just be a little quirk, but perhaps worth looking into if it affects other areas!

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Amber Myers October 25, 2017 at 8:14 am

My son has autism and has sensory issues. He can’t wear clothes if he says they feel funny. When he was younger, he couldn’t wear shirts with tags in them. He’s a teenager now and is better with things, but he still refuses to wear certain fabrics. (Heavy ones, for the most part.)

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Oh yes, heavy fabrics can be such a pain! Light, breathable cotton is a general favorite here. Or the ones that wick away sweat like the ones Under Armour makes. That was a shock to me that they liked them so much!

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Anita October 25, 2017 at 8:51 am

I can relate to this post in more ways than one. Everything you mentioned is spot on. Thank you for sharing this.

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Thanks!

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Tomi C October 25, 2017 at 9:00 am

I know several kids with SPD. I think more clothing brands are becoming aware of this which explains the uptick in tagless clothes. It helps but really helps is a family that is aware of the child’s SPD and makes appropriate adjustments to clothing, environment or whatever is needed to make the child comfortable.

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 12:53 pm

It’s so true! When I had our oldest, it was tough to find things that were truly tagless and that had some give and weren’t super stiff. Now it’s becoming more of a norm–thank goodness 😉

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Jeanette October 25, 2017 at 10:10 am

I know a lot of kids that have issues like this. My niece refuses to eat any kind of pasta because she doesn’t like the feeling on her tongue. We all have to do what we need to in order to help our kids get through this!

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 12:54 pm

Oh my gosh, yes! Our youngest has severe food sensory issues and it’s a really tough hurtle. I’m going to talk about it in a future post!

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Lisa October 25, 2017 at 3:19 pm

I had relatives who chewed on their clothing. My sons hated having tags in their shirts, and HAD to wear boxers!

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 6:20 pm

Boxers are super popular here too, but they have to fit a very particular way lol

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Joanna @ Everyday Made Fresh October 25, 2017 at 6:14 pm

My daughter has this, I swear. I just haven’t ever brought it up at the dr to get a diagnosis. Jeans and pants with zippers/buttons cause her such angst. Tags have to be taken completely out of everything, and she loves to rub her fingers across her pillow case and a certain blanket.

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 6:21 pm

Very interesting! Does she have any other sensory seeking behaviors?

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Liz Mays October 25, 2017 at 6:17 pm

I can’t imagine how uncomfortable this must make children feel! It’s great that you’ve been able to find some clothes that work with soem trial and error.

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 6:21 pm

Yes, definitely a lot of child and error! lol

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Pam October 25, 2017 at 6:53 pm

My daughter has this. She still tries to wear flip flops year round and she’s turning 25 this year. My son has it too and he’s the same way. Shorts in the snow? He’s done it.

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Hahaha! I only laugh because I know the struggle 😀

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Cheryl October 25, 2017 at 7:42 pm

I had no idea. This sounds like it can be very challenging for children and parents.

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familyadhd October 25, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Definitely!

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Jen Temcio October 25, 2017 at 8:32 pm

There was no name for this 40 years ago when I had this. I was not as resourceful as your boys are to get rid of the items I couldn’t wear!

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familyadhd October 26, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Ugh that’s so frustrating! Hahahaha darn, well at least now you can buy your own clothes I suppose? 😉

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Marysa October 25, 2017 at 10:26 pm

That is definitely a challenge. You have some great tips for making things a little easier. That must be tough when you are in a rush or need the kids to wear a certain type of clothing. Thanks for sharing, I learned more about SPD.

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familyadhd October 26, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Oh yes, when you have to ask a child to change 4 times before leaving for an appointment it can get stressful! lol

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Kita Bryant October 26, 2017 at 12:52 pm

Wow, I had never heard of this before. That sounds like it can be quite stressful for the poor kiddos.

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familyadhd October 26, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Yes, definitely!

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Anosa October 26, 2017 at 12:52 pm

I super agree to not judge every person. We may not know that they are also in their own battles. I am sure this is really a challenge and a blessing at the same time. Still, I hope your boys can easily adjust in the future. I admire you for your love and commitment to your family.

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familyadhd October 26, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Aw thank you, you’re so sweet!

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Chubskulit Rose October 26, 2017 at 1:39 pm

I feel for your boys, I hope that it gets easier for them as time goes on. It can be really hard to transition from shorts to pants especially in your sons cases.

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familyadhd October 28, 2017 at 11:19 am

Thank you so much!

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Amanda October 26, 2017 at 10:32 pm

I feel for both you and your boys. Transitions are hard, especially when you have a sensory processing disorder. Thank you for writing this post and sharing your tips–you are helping countless families.

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familyadhd October 28, 2017 at 11:20 am

Aw thank you so much! I hope, if nothing else, other parents with SPD kiddos get a little chuckle and don’t feel alone. 🙂

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Dogvills October 27, 2017 at 4:34 am

I understand the struggle. It must be a big challenge everyday especially during change of seasons. Thank you for sharing your story. You are a strong Mama, and I am sending you a virtual hug for all that you do for your family.

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familyadhd October 28, 2017 at 11:20 am

Aw thank you so much!!!

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Cedar August 23, 2018 at 4:29 pm

My nephew has SPD and while shirts don’t seem to bother him, he does all sorts of crazy things to get away from the waistband. Like pulling the pants down till they are slouched around his hips. Or tucking his shirt in and pulling the pants down so far they are almost falling off. And then there is the wedgie issue, on purpose. The opposite problem there. He’s just starting 1st grade and I’m afraid the kids will start making fun of his pants choices soon. On the other hand, he never gets embarrassed. His parents have mostly just gone for an elastic waistband as the most practical option, under the circumstances. Do you have any ideas about fixing the waistband issue? Or do the Flex jeans you mentioned do that?
Thanks!

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familyadhd December 14, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Yes! It can be so tough when kiddos have their own ways of coping with the issues. Honestly, the only thing we’ve found works is going through as many brands and styles of pants as possible until we find something that works. Our youngest has the most severe sensory issues and we’ve gotten super creative on some things and found fixes, but generally, if it’s a severe response to something it means we probably have to go searching for alternatives. I swear pants are so often the culprit, too! Between sensory issues and the fact that our youngest is in the 3rd percentile, I swear it’s a journey to find things that work. Does he have the same issues with all types of pant material? Khaki, corduroy, fleece, etc.?

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Melissa Moreno December 6, 2018 at 6:40 am

How can you tell if it’s just a style preference or a real sensory issue?

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familyadhd December 14, 2018 at 2:51 pm

Good question! With sensory integration disorder, we’ve generally found that it isn’t as simple as one area being affected, it’s MANY areas. For example, your mouth, your skin, etc. And unlike a preference, which could manifest in a kiddo perhaps being stubborn with a like or dislike, the sensory issues make the person with Sensory Integration Disorder feel like their nervous system is completely overloaded–like they want to turn themselves inside out because it’s so bad. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s also some sensory seeking as well. Our kiddos were professionally evaluated by multiple specialists before we took on this diagnoses and I’d recommend anyone wondering if their kiddo has sensory issues do the same. You learn a lot about the nature of the disorder, how it affects the individual, etc. I hope that helps! We’re always down to chat more about it here or on IG 🙂

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