Skip to main content

Getting dressed can be a battleground when your child has special needs. For those with sensory difficulties, it may be itchy fabric, annoying seams, irritating tags and socks that drive children wild (and eventually barefoot). For those with dyspraxia or physical disabilities, the buttons, zips, laces and fiddly hooks can make them frustrated and angry when they can’t dress themselves like other children of their age.

The good news is that even stalwarts of the kids’ catwalk like Marks and Spencer and Clarks are waking up to this, and the market opportunity it presents them with, and they have started producing lines with special needs in mind.

Underwear

SmartKnitKIDS in the US makes seamless sensitivity products. You can buy its range in the UK at Sensory Smart. They are seam-free and elastic-free with comfortable non-binding waists and legs. Plus they are made from a blend of Coolmax and Lycra making them super-stretchy, hugging the body.  The good news is that Coolmax doesn’t use chemicals; it’s the structure of the yarn that does the work by drawing moisture away from the body and regulating temperature. 

For washable continence pants, take a look at Rackety’s. Their soft cotton pants have built-in washable pads and waterproof backing. No need for disposables, just wash and re-use.

Onesies

Marks and Spencer has a range of soft cotton larger-size popper vests and onesies in sizes up to 16 years. This range of adaptive clothing keeps nappies securely in place and away from wandering hands. The flat seams are chafe-resistant making them comfortable for all ages. 

Special Kids Company has tag-free onsies and vest suits with neckline, armholes and legs all bound in a soft stretchy rib. Sizes available up to 16 years.

Socks

Sensory Smart sells SmartKnitKIDS socks made with a non-binding top that won’t slip down. They are seam-free (no lumps or bumps), and hug the foot to stop wrinkling or bunching up. The no heel design makes them easier to put on and the antimicrobial fabric keeps feet sweat and stink-free. 

Another option is Ez Sox made by the Special Kids Company. These are fun learning socks made with seamless toes and non-skid grippers. They have pull up loops to help kids put them on and come in colourful animal and car designs or stripes and polka dots. Available to fit up to 9 years old.

Or for children who struggle to get their socks on, buy regular socks but in the larger size which will allow more give. Using fabric conditioner when you wash them makes them stretchier.

T-shirts and undergarments

Set up by parents of Jett who was diagnosed with autism, global development delay and sensory processing disorder at three years old, JettProof undergarments are made from Calmtex, a light-weight, breathable, sensory fabric designed specifically for sensory care. They can be worn comfortably all year round allowing kids to wear their favourite clothes or school uniform on top.

Sensory Direct offers sensory ‘hug’ t-shirts and compression shirts that can have a reassuring and calming effect. These discreet t-shirts (without itchy labels) can be worn under clothes and are made from high quality cotton with stretchy lycra. All made with flat seams and extra long in the body to stop any riding up.  

School uniform

An easy-dressing range at Marks and Spencer has been developed in collaboration with the National Autistic Society. Buttons have been replaced with hidden panels of soft Velcro and pull-up trousers are available up to 16 years old. The usual trouser back pocket has been removed and tags have been moved to the inside of the pocket. Not particularly soft but hard wearing and practical according to parents. Plus 10 per cent of every sale goes to the National Autistic Society.

Special Kids Company does school uniforms up to 16 years, including super-soft polo shirt bodysuits, also available with G-tube access. 

And Spectra Sensory Clothing has recently developed its own range of soft, elastic waist school trousers as well as shirts with softer collars that can still be worn with a tie. All labels are in the pockets and all inside seams are sewed down. 

Swimwear

Pretty, frilly halterneck or side tying swimsuits with waterproof nappies or discreet waterproof liners are available for girls from Seen In. For boys there are swim shorts which can unbutton at the sides or trunks, with the same protection.

Trousers

When children struggle to get them up and down and to do up fastenings, jogging bottoms are useful. For something smarter, Boden and Next both do trousers with internal button elastic waist adjustments. Buy a size too big, cinch in the waist with the button elastic, and you have created an elasticated waist. Or buy some button fly trousers and a strip of Velcro, then cut off the buttons and sew in Velcro strips.

Shoes

School shoes supremo Clarks has launched a shoe range that is autism-friendly. The shoes, called Hula Yo Gore-Tex, have been approved by schools and are lightweight, practically seam free, and have Velcro fastenings.  Plus the black leather upper and rubber sole makes them waterproof. Currently available in adult sizes 3-8, with Hula Go versions in infant sizes 10-12.5 and junior sizes 13-2.5, with F and G width fittings.

For clever replacements for shoelaces, which turn lace ups into slip ons, try Hickiesor Greepers which even has a Thomas the Tank Engine version, or Coilers which has versions for smart shoes and trainers.

And for a child that prefers to be barefoot, check out Vivo Barefoot. They make ultra lightweight, flexible shoes with ‘barely there’ protective soles that give feet maximum sensory feedback. 

Gloves and mittens

Fleecy mittens which open at the side to make them easy to get on, and have a stay put strap to keep them on are available from Seen In

Bibs

Supercool designs including The Avengers, Star Wars, surfing monkeys, butterflies, Hello Kitty, Converse boots or cute dogs are available from Hipper Bib. Made by hand in Oklahoma they are shipped worldwide. The triangle shaped, triple layer, reversible bib is designed ‘to capture drool and still look cool'.

by

Related articles


  • Special educational needs

    Some special needs are easy to spot, others are only determined once a child has experienced considerable difficulties, frustrations or social and emotional problems.  Over the years, diagnosis of and provision for SEN have improved, but both can still be a minefield. Identifying different kinds of special educational needs Few children fit a condition perfectly – if they do, we tend to say they are a ‘classic’ case. Most will not be straightforward: perhaps a dyslexic with dyspraxia and a touch of ADD, or a child with ASD who also has Down’s syndrome. Just as special needs are hard to…

  • Why choose a special school?

    Like their mainstream counterparts, special schools must teach the national curriculum and use its assessment procedures, and they have broadly the same duties and responsibilities to children in their care as mainstream schools. An Educational Health and Care (EHC) plan is invariably required to get a place in a special school.

  • Flexible working - what rights do parents have?

    Parents of children with special needs may need to take more time off work than others. What are your rights to flexible working? What kind of working hours are you entitled to request? How can you challenge an employer's refusal to allow flexible working?

  • Flying with children with special needs

    Travel with a special needs child can be fraught and stressful. And airports can be guaranteed to set your holiday off on the wrong foot. We've asked the UK's airports to tell us how they can help families with SEN and disabled children.

  • Education Health and Care Plans: What should a good one look like?

    The process of converting statements to EHC Plans is underway, and there are many tales of local authorities confusing or rushing the process, and inadequate Plans written as a result. What does a good Plan look like, and why is it important that provision is written under a particular section?


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

30000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent friendly interactive directory.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1200+ schools.
Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

**For a limited time get one month's Good Schools Guide subscription free with any purchase of The Good Schools Guide to Boarding Schools.**

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 GSG Blog >    In the news >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Don't overlook non-Russell Group universities.

 
 

For a limited time get one month's Good Schools Guide subscription free with any purchase of The Good Schools Guide to Boarding Schools.