The most common question I get or perceive is “Why is clothing such a big deal for someone with autism?”
Well, the obvious answer is that clothing is sensory stimulating. You wear clothes pretty much all the time so they’re constantly touching you and rubbing against you and putting pressure on you. The thing is though that you’re used to it so you don’t generally notice it. It’s like wearing a wristwatch. The first time you wear one, it feels chunky and strange. But after a while, you get used to the watch being there and you don’t even realize you have it on.
However, when you have sensory sensitivities, getting used to that feeling is a lot harder. I’ve compared it before to running in jeans. If you have ever run long distances in jeans, you know the feeling of clothes rubbing against your skin. That feeling is similar to the feeling that people with sensory sensitivity get with most clothes. Even things like cotton can feel like wearing sandpaper sometimes.
And it’s not just clothes, although clothes issues are the most prevalent usually.
Because of that feeling, I usually choose my clothes based on how I feel that day. If I’ve had a hard day or week, I tend to wear softer clothes that feel less abrasive on my skin. But if I’ve had a pretty good day or week, I’m more open to wearing rougher clothes like 100% cotton or jeans. There’s certain types of material that I can’t wear when I’m not having a good day. They just feel too harsh and that extra thing to deal with will make the day just that much harder.
And I always gravitate toward soft things. They make me feel so much calmer. And when I have soft clothes to feel when something stressful happens, it can help prevent breakdowns or stressing out. Soft sweaters have given me a huge sense of security in difficult social situations over the years.
Clothes aren’t always a big deal but depending on what else is going on, they can be a huge factor in how life goes. Rough clothes can make difficult times even more difficult and harder to cope with. While soft clothes can sometimes make just enough difference to ease a difficult situation.