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Benefits of Sensory School Uniforms

Benefits of Sensory School Uniforms

Why do children with Autism have sensitivities to school uniforms?

Children with Sensory Issues, Autism, SPD, ADHD, OCD, PDA or other SEN issues have so many challenges already that they need to overcome every single day in order to travel to and attend school, focus on their work and overcome anxiety and dysregulation. School uniform is a huge additional barrier to many and causes meltdowns in so many busy homes each morning.

Some schools have great SEN support and are open to the idea of sensory kids needing additional assistance. This often leads to flexibility over uniform items – for example swapping in grey sweatpants instead of tailored trousers, or allowing a polo instead of a tailored shirt, and this eases the pressures and gently removes the barrier to school attendance. Some schools though seem to deny that sensitivity is a valid challenge and almost relish in the discomfort and expense their school uniform policy causes.

Sensory clothing that can help with school uniform sensitivities

    1. Seamless and Compression Base Layers - When the full school uniform is unavoidable, we tend to approach it by seeing if we can create a comfortable base layer against the skin. This could be light seamless garments or base layers with seams (seamfree) that have been adapted for comfort. We would also look at compression garments that give a small amount of compression. These use stretchy yarns to provide a reassuring pressure – the steady input (as opposed to fabric moving around randomly against the skin) can give comfort, providing a feeling of security and body awareness, and in turn creating the calming effect that can be so soothing. For some sensory kids a firmer hug base layer is required, particularly with sensory seeking children who struggle to stay still, fidget, jiggle or flap hands, tight clothing gives great proprioceptive input. Ultimately, if we can create a comfortable and secure layer against the skin, it protects from the sensation of whatever needs to go on top, and reduces the contact with skin of rougher materials. Seamless socks and undies cut down on much distress. In our ranges we say ‘seamless’ when items are woven to have no joins, or ‘seamfree’ where there are adapted seams that pull flat and smooth or are oversewn. There are pros and cons for different options, with a variety of fabrics, feels and benefits.
    2. Sensory friendly school uniforms - Uniform garments are by their nature very structured and long wearing. To achieve this you need stiff sturdy fabrics and lots of seaming. A no-no for our sensory kids. We are working with a number of suppliers and manufacturers to get new items available, we are trialing new innovative fabric blends and seaming techniques to develop sensory friendly school uniforms. Unfortunately we are producing in small batches, and that means we don’t have the economy of scale to be able to drive the prices down. We are never going to be able to match supermarket brands in price as they are making thousands upon thousands of items, but we will continue to work in small batches to solve some of the issues unsolved elsewhere. If you are struggling on low income look at our ‘help with finance’ section for some ideas of who to approach to get help with sensory uniform.

What are the most common issues for children when it comes to uniforms

Tight highly elasticated waistbands, itchy scratchy fabrics, fitting button adjuster bands on trousers, rough seams and flappy edges brushing against the skin. Lumpy seams or bands in socks and pants. We can help with alternatives for most of these challenges.

Because most of our suppliers are working in smaller batches we do sometimes have supply challenges, so we recommend trying while there is availability in the size you need, and if you find a highly favoured item get the next size up in the same batch if you are able to.

Where we can we always add into the design elements to make clothing more flexible, longer lasting or otherwise improve affordability, it is always an important consideration.

For some with really strict uniform policy we recommend as well as looking to get comfy base layers see if you have a low cost seamstress or tailoring service nearby in your area who might be able to oversew softer fabrics over seams for you or come up with other clever solutions to any uncomfortable garments that can’t be avoided, or where they still touch the skin outside of base layers.

In the meantime, if you find good school uniform alternatives available in the UK or overseas, or cost effective life hack options elsewhere, do let us know so we can either try to ship in or stock the items, or give the advice to other customers with the same issues.

Shop our full range of School Wear today.

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