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How To Choose Clothing for Children with Special Needs

Updated on November 17, 2009

Special Children have Special Needs

Keeping up with clothing needs of children is challenging, and special needs children have unusual clothing needs. Depending on specific disabilities or health problems, clothing should be interesting and uncomplicated to put on.

Clothing for children with special needs should be:

appealing to the child


targeted to age

appropriate for the child's skills


designed to increase independence

easy to put on and take off

non-restrictive to allow freedom of movement

easy to care for


Finding clothing that meets all or most of these characteristics can be difficult. Making a list with the features and requirements needed, can make the shopping trip less stressful and more enjoyable.

What To Buy:

Don't pick garments because you like the looks of them, instead, keep the child's comfort in mind. Don't buy articles that can become tangled in medical equipment, as these could cause your child to fall or be injured. Try to get clothing that fits well, but keep in mind that children grow quickly. Don't spend an outlandish amount on outfits that might be worn only once, like holiday apparel.

Selections that have lumpy seams or can press on body areas are not, usually, wise choices. Instead opt for something that can spark the child's interest, such as embroidered motifs. Select colors that are pleasing to a child, remember bright colors call attention and dark colors camouflage, and prints or patterns can hide dirt and stains.

Elastic waistbands and cuffs may be warmer, but should not be overly tight against the skin. If medical tubes are a concern, stick to shirts that button up the front, or pants that have pocket openings. Terrycloth and cotton fabrics are good choices, if drooling is a problem.

Two-piece warm up suits are comfortable, warm and easy to wear if the child needs uses a wheelchair. Ponchos can eliminate struggling with coats or sweaters, and leg warmers and fuzzy foot covers can be easier to deal with than snow pants.

Functional Fabrics:

Fabrics are constructed with many different fibers. Clothing can be woven, knitted, shiny, thin, thick, or waterproof. Avoid choosing scratchy or slick fabrics; Clothing should feel good against a child's skin.

If wrinkles are of concern, knit fabrics stretch and wrinkle less. Denim, corduroy, and flannel are durable, and can conceal braces because they don't cling. However, shiny fabrics tend to emphasize body irregularities.

If you live in a cold climate, clothing made from fleece, quilted material, or napped fabrics maintain a good level of body heat and are comfortable.


If you like certain brands, choosing an item from the same company will, probably, suit your child's needs. If a child is able get dressed alone, shirts with back or shoulder openings may be good choices. Tiny buttons are difficult if the child has limited dexterity. Of course, Velcro is the easiest when you want to made dressing and undressing less difficult.

Before You Shop:

Reviewing magazines and catalogs that offer clothing for special needs children can give you ideas and helpful information. If the child is able to express their preferences, have them look at the catalogs with you. If the child is able to travel, taking them along on the shopping trip will get them out and let them make some choose on some clothing.

Caring For Clothing:

Read clothing labels closely, as some materials are not washable, others can only be laundered by hand, and still others must be dry-cleaned. Pay attention to the characteristics of the fabric, such as shrinkage, colorfast, and flammable qualities.

Children with special needs can learn to dress and undress themselves if their clothing is not too restraining. Selecting clothing that have large openings, Velcro fasteners and simple pull-on pants can help your child to become independent. Children with special needs can master getting dressed, but it will require patience and encouragement.


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    • profile image

      Glenda Sandlin 7 years ago

      I just made an adaptable coat for my granddaughter. You can see it on my website

      If you can sew or find a seamstress in your area, this might be helpful.

    • ivori profile image

      Barbara Eisenberg 8 years ago from Titusville

      I'm assuming that is a picture of your granddaughter. She's a doll! Thanks for your kind comments.

    • ivori profile image

      Barbara Eisenberg 8 years ago from Titusville

      I'm assuming that is a picture of your granddaughter. She's a doll! Thanks for your kind comments.

    • elayne001 profile image

      Elayne 8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      My granddaughter was born with spina bifida and will need to be in a wheelchair. She just turned one year old and we are learning how to care for her best. She is such a joy to all of us. Thanks for your informative hub. Aloha!

    • profile image

      ivori 8 years ago

      That might be, Taylor. And, maybe they don't want to acknowledge the fact that their children are 'special.'

    • Taylor Finch profile image

      Taylor Finch 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      I did some voluntary work with special needs children earlier this year and many of the parents would dress their children in clothes inappropriate for their age. I think parents do this (unconciously) when they do not want their children to grow up.

    • ivori profile image

      Barbara Eisenberg 8 years ago from Titusville

      Thank you for your comment, Cari. Coats and boots would definitely be hard to find. Your daughter has a good mom!

    • Cari Jean profile image

      Cari Jean 8 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      This is good information. I have a daughter in a wheelchair with a feeding tube so my first priority for her is comfort and nonrestrictive. The one real issue we have in clothing her is winter coats and finding winter boots to go over the orthotics on her feet. Winter in North Dakota is tough enough but even more challenging with a special needs child!