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Bundling up without a Battle: Three Tips for Winter Dressing
Feb 21st, 2023

As cold wind and snow roll through, our wardrobe must change to keep us safe and warm from the harsh winter elements. Some children with autism resist wearing additional layers of clothing and parents can be hard-pressed to find a solution that sticks. 

However, for every issue, there is an answer, and finding a way to convince your child to bundle up before going outdoors doesn’t need to be a daily battle. By employing a few simple, effective strategies, parents can set the framework for their children to enjoy the winter world without worrying about the cold.

  1. Ensure Their Jacket Feels Good

When deciding upon a winter jacket for your child, take the time to consider what colors, fabrics, and designs your child most enjoys. This can mean taking them to the store with you to see and feel different types, letting them pick options online, or simply asking them what they like best.

Let them know that their winter jacket is their choice, and it’s ok if the first few don’t feel right. Children with autism can be especially sensitive to feel, so some materials like wool—while warm—might not be the best fit tactilely. Taking the time to find one within which they feel safe and excited is worth it in the long run when they have a positive association with the piece. Layers can be another fantastic option as children can then adjust as needed throughout the day.

Of course, any jacket that features a character from a show or stories your child enjoys is far more likely to be worn without issue. By taking a few steps to ensure your child has a positive feeling towards a jacket, they are far more likely to wear it rather than one that was picked without their input.

  1. Associate Jacket with an Activity

When explaining to your child why we must wear a jacket in winter, it’s far too easy to frame it in a somewhat negative light, “Because it’s too cold outside”.

One clever option parents can employ is connecting the jacket to an activity their child enjoys. For example, an ice skating jacket or snow angel jacket sounds far more exciting, and immediately conjures excitement about the fun possibilities that follow putting on a jacket.

By making a jacket the key piece between your child and doing activities they enjoy, parents can reduce resistance to wearing winter clothing. This powerful association will last in their mind even when they aren’t doing their preferred activity and make wearing a jacket a happier association.

  1. Recognize & Reinforce

Once your child warms up to a jacket, it’s important to cement the connection through recognition and reinforcement.

The first few times this can be something small like extra play time, a favorite snack, or a verbal thank you. Another useful tool is to track progress with a sticker chart to mark consecutive days that your child wore and kept their jacket on where appropriate. 

The steady application of positive reinforcement has been proven to yield results for children. Capitalizing on these examples of good behavior can help parents build momentum with wearing a jacket, which in time will settle into normalized habits.

Winter Dressing Done Right

Winter can be challenging for us all. For children with autism, it’s especially important to help facilitate changes in clothing, routine, and life with the right tools and information. 

In doing so, parents can overcome their child’s natural resistance to change, and help ensure they are kept warm and cozy throughout winter, whether in the home or out in nature.

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