Buying clothes for the Navigator could be tricky. As a rule he would not take off clothes once he put them on, which made it very hard to try things on to see what fit.

When I bought clothes for him, I went to the store myself and guessed what would fit him and what he would be comfortable wearing. Then he put it on and if it didn’t fit or work for some reason I either saved it to try later (if it was too big) or gave it away.

The only thing he was willing to shop for was shoes. Putting on and taking off shoes didn’t bother him, which was great because shoes that don’t fit were the worst.

Even at home, once he put something on, unless it was somehow uncomfortable (like a tag was feeling prickly or soft pants started pilling and felt pebbly to him) he wouldn’t take it off.

I would send him to school in pants too short for him on several occasions because he would not take them off once I realized they were up around his ankles.

To help me remember which clothes would no longer fit him, I would put a safety pin through a belt loop in the back of the pants, under his shirt, where it wouldn’t bother him and wouldn’t be seen.

Then when I washed his clothes, I would pull aside the ones with the safety pins and if they were still in good shape, donate them to charity.

When he started doing his own laundry, as one of the steps he needs to take to get screen time, I had less chance to check for what fit and what didn’t than I did when I was doing his laundry.

Recently I noticed that he would wear only the same five or seven of the 20 to 30 shirts in his closet. It was time to weed out the no longer wearable and the undesirables but I wasn’t sure how to do it. He wasn’t going to tolerate me asking him to try on things. I didn’t want to just take things out of the closet for fear of removing something he loved and was just not wearing – that would cause great stress.

It was time to apply strategies used for purging other items. I would regularly have him go through all his books and toys, deciding which ones he wanted to give away and which ones he wanted to keep.

It was important that it was just a few at a time, so that he was not overwhelmed by the project. It was usually a task he needed to do to get screen time – go through 15 books and put away the ones he wants to keep, etc.

Taking a large project and breaking it down into smaller components was a good exercise to strengthen his executive function skills. I decided to do the same thing with his clothes, having him go through just his short-sleeved shirts and selecting those that didn’t fit or that he didn’t like, for example.

It takes a few weeks, but it means his clothes are regularly sorted through, without his having to try anything on.

Here is a fun post about clothes from Taking it a Step at a Time – Autism called You Wear It Well

The Purge