Clothing –
aka itchy and scratchy! if you’re reading this and you’re not autistic, this will seem an odd thing to have in our glossary! If you’re autistic, you will totally get it!

When I was a little girl I used to stand at the top of the stairs squatting and wailing with horror at the sensation of my nasty school tights sitting too low in the crotch area. This became quite the obsession and if I felt my tights were even slightly sitting too low, I would have to start squatting and flexing, wherever I was. I try to never wear tights now.

That’s just one example of how clothing can cause us torturous sensory problems. Probably the most commonly reported is the unbearable sensation of a scratchy care label. This is even worse now so many clothes have instructions in ten different languages – it’s a virtual book down there! Snippety snip – out they come, whenever I buy new clothing. Sometimes labels are fine for years and then they suddenly start irritating. It’s such a dreadful sensation that I can’t think past it.

Some people, me included, cannot bear the feeling of scratchy clothes. This could be a stiff cotton shirt, a wool jumper, socks with lumpy seams. For the many of us who also have co-occurring skin conditions, finding clothes that don’t irritate can be a challenge.

We may find extreme discomfort in noisy clothes, like wet weather gear or shoes that squeak. Some hate restrictive clothing – they can’t wear close fitting sleeves or tops with a turtle or roll neck, the thought of a tie is just unimaginable. Others need that slight feeling of compression, in order to feel calm – a tight belt, tight fitting clothing with zipped tops that come right up to the chin. Within the autistic clothing realm, there is a vast wardrobe!

When we find clothes that make us happy, we tend to just buy lots of the same thing. I, for instance, have ten tops that are the same style, same brand, just different colours… I can’t wear them any more because they’ve turned the scratchy corner after a few years of continuous use. I also have six pairs of identical trousers – the softest material I’ve ever come across, stretchy waist, no constriction, no sense of style, no problem – I adore them and I wear them daily.

The other thing that is a big factor in clothing is temperature. Many of us have a very small range of comfortable temperatures, if we have heat sensitivity – so getting the thickness and breathability of clothing is make or break.

Here’s a PIP TIP: If we incur higher than usual clothes washing costs, because we only have certain clothes that we can tolerate – our favourites – this is an important point to raise in the PIP application process. This is exactly the sort of thing that the Personal Independence Payment is intended to help towards.