How to stop a child with autism from undressing

Parents of toddlers often worry about their children suddenly taking off all their clothes. Not only is public nudity unwelcome after infancy, but diaperless kids who aren’t toilet trained can cause real mess.

While parents of typical children can usually address this at an early age, parents of children with autism may not. In some cases, this behavior may continue beyond what is considered acceptable. This can cause problems not only at school, but also parent or teacher dissatisfaction.

This article explains why some children with autism have difficulty getting dressed. It also provides practical tips on how to help children with autism stay dressed and learn new behaviors.

Why do children with autism undress

In most cases, children with autism will undress because they are uncomfortable. This can happen even if you choose comfortable clothes made from soft natural fibers.

This behavior tends to occur because children with autism often face sensory challenges that cause them to react strongly to touch (related to touch) and even vision.

In some examples:

  • Children with autism may be overly sensitive to rough seams and labels.
  • They may react to clothes or belts that are too tight.
  • They may react to clothing that is too loose and slips easily.
  • They may react to itching from allergies.
  • They may find a new garment or fabric pattern distressing.

The problem is complicated by the fact that children with autism do not respond to the reactions of others the way typical children do. There are limitations to their understanding of the emotional cues that a typical child can accept.

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E.g:

  • Children with autism may not know much about what others expect of them.
  • They may not be comfortable with the idea of ​​imitating their peers.
  • They may not understand what frustrated adults are asking of them.
  • They may not have the language skills to describe the discomfort they feel.

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Children with autism may undress if they feel uncomfortable or distressed. They may not understand that what they are doing is inappropriate because they often lack the ability to understand the emotional cues of others around them.

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How to help your child get dressed

Given that children with autism may have difficulty wearing these clothes, how should you respond as a parent or guardian?

You can go a few routes:

Identify and adjust problems

The first step is to determine what is causing your child to undress. You can then make adjustments to remove any factors that are causing your child’s discomfort or distress.

If your child can talk, just ask what makes them uncomfortable. But avoid general questions like “Are you uncomfortable?” Instead, ask if the garment is itchy or tight. Please be clear.

If your child can’t speak, try a few outfits to see which are more sensitive and which are less sensitive.

When shopping for new clothing, remove any tags or anything that may be pressing on your skin. Run your fingers along the seams and hem, cutting any burrs or loose strings you find.

If your child reacts to clothes that are too loose, find clothes that squeeze a little. A less expensive option is to choose a lycra/spandex shirt, shorts, or leggings that offer a little compression. You can also opt for more expensive compression garments or weighted vests.

Autism, Sensory Processing Disorder, and Sensory Integration

Use behavior modification

If you are unable to identify the sensory reasons for the behavior, the next step is to actively teach your child to dress. This involves behavior modification techniques that use positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors and empathetic adjustments to inappropriate behaviors.

You can do several things:

  • Teach your child to use picture books such as “Where Are the Pants Go?” by Rebecca Van Slack.
  • Draw attention to how their peers stay dressed.
  • Create a sticker chart that rewards stars or stickers if your child wears clothes for a specific time.

Tools like sticker charts are a reward system Often used in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). ABA is a form of therapy that focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as social skills or communication.

You might even consider working with an ABA therapist to develop strategies for your child.

Find practical solutions

If neither clothing adjustments nor behavioral changes help, you may need to find practical short-term solutions. This includes making it physically impossible for your child to undress.

There are many ways to do this:

  • Put the fasteners in the back so your child can’t reach them.
  • Dress your child in extra layers to make it harder to strip completely.
  • Buy clothes with feet, such as pajamas or onesie, and wear them in the back.
  • Use a safety pin to stop the zipper from being pulled open.
  • Replace snaps with more complex fasteners, such as hook-and-eye fasteners.

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You can help children with autism get dressed by identifying and addressing the cause of their discomfort. You can also use positive reinforcement to reward your child for wearing clothes. As a stopgap, find clothes that are harder to take off.

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Children with autism sometimes undress when they find it uncomfortable or painful. While this also applies to typical children, children with autism may continue to do this later. Part of the reason for this is that they don’t take emotional cues like a typical child. As a result, they may not understand that what they are doing is inappropriate.

You can help your child with autism get dressed by identifying the cause of their discomfort. You can also teach your child to dress by offering a reward system. Some parents use pictures or books to reinforce positive behaviors or point out behaviors of their peers.

Clothes that are found or difficult to remove as a stopgap. You can also wear their clothing backwards so they can’t reach the fasteners.

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The good news is that the vast majority of children with autism eventually learn to dress. At the same time, stay calm and focus on rewarding your child for appropriate behavior rather than punishing them for inappropriate behavior.

Punishing a child with autism for undressing has little to do with changing behavior — and may just make you more upset, thereby escalating the situation.