Even though the rain this morning put a nip in the air, I know that summer is fast approaching…because today I sewed Emily some of her summer skirts. What many people do not know about autism is how the sensory processing issues effect everything you do…even finding the right clothes to wear.
Think for a moment about that really itchy sweater that Aunt Crazy gave you…the one that you just have to wear every time she visits and how it drives you as crazy as she is the whole time. Or remember when your shoes got soaked in that storm and your best friend thought she was doing you a favor by loaning you pair…after all what difference does half a size make anyway between friends. Well that is what the wrong clothes feel like to those on the autistic spectrum. But not just once in a while…EVERY DAY!
For parents of children with autism it makes shopping an even bigger nightmare…as if the florescent lights, background music/noise and crowds were not enough to worry about. But not picking the ‘right’ thing is an even bigger disaster…a meltdown…each and every time you try to make her wear it.
For PanKwake a deep and abiding hatred of socks and shoes was one of the earliest signs of autism. The wonderful community nursery that she attended when she was young worked for months to get her to keep her shoes on. Her brilliant keyworker finally succeeded when she named them Millie and Molly after her favorite TV cartoon characters. She told her that they would miss her if she did not keep them on.
But within weeks of putting her in Reception it was back to picking her up…barefoot. We lost enough socks that year to build a whole sock puppet world. Now the only shoes you can get her to wear are Crocs…even in winter. And socks? Are you kidding me? Only when we visit a soft play center and they make her or she cannot play.
It is tags and seams too though. I have to look hard to find tagless t-shirts. And underwear? The new knit seamless panties are about it. Nothing tight fitting either. Everything must be loose. When she was younger, she could manage sweat pants but never tights, leggings or jeans.
That is where her skirts come in. Three or four years ago I decided to see if she would wear them if I made them. She LOVES them. For one thing, all of them are cotton…a fabric that seems to soothe her. But equally or perhaps more importantly they give her a sense of autonomy. With these simple elastic pull on skirts she can dress herself.
The only problem is that this year even once summer was over I could not get her back into her loose sweat pants. She would only wear her skirts…even in the middle of winter. I can count on my fingers and toes the number of times we got her into pants this winter…and all of those were things like Disney on Ice that she absolutely HAD to do…had to = wanted to. I finally gave up and just took blankets with us everywhere we went to wrap her up so her legs would not get cold…remember leggings and tights are 100% no-no. Of course that meant, yet another thing for all these nosey people preach to me about what a bad mother I am.
So today I am back to sewing her more skirts as she outgrows them each year. But I cannot complain. Not only do I enjoy sewing up…the skirts take 1/2 a meter of material each so there is no cutting anything out. And they cost only £1 to £4. It is three seams…waistband with elastic, hem and then one down the side. Even with ironing, it takes me between 15 and 20 minutes to make one. Autism is just another reason I am glad I know how to sew.
This year…I got brave. Lately she has been being more brave/adventurous at least with her foods. So I thought what the heck…shorts and a t-shirt dress. Will she wear them? Probably not…but it is worth a try, right?
Next time you go clothes shopping for you or the kids, look around…that Mom with the screaming kid who is hitting and biting her, refusing to try on that shirt and screaming as if she were pouring boiling water over him…they just might be dealing with the sensory processing issues and autism like PanKwake. Instead of judging her and/or her child, give her the benefit of the doubt and a genuine smile. It might be the only one she gets that day.
Handmade skirts and barefoot…just another way that PanKwake and I are ‘dealing wif autism.’