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7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

My 7 year old granddaughter won't wear underwear. Mother has tried all types, she goes hysterical and breaks out in blotches on her face. Not only that she does not wear socks, dungarees, or tight pants.


Has anyone ever heard of this, and if so please advise how you dealt with the problem.

By Ann from Tyngsboro, MA


7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

It sounds like she might possibly be tactilly defensive. That just means that a person is very sensitive to their sense of touch. Her body tells her that that elastic waist band, or tight socks, or stiff/rough material is painful. She has hysterics because, to her, it feels really bad, and she is still expected to wear it. Everyday. Think of it this way: let's say you really hate hot and spicy food. Burns your mouth, tastes terrible. But people keep on feeding it to you for every meal. You say you hate it, and they tell you to get used to it. Maybe they get mad at you. You can't like it, you can't get used to it. You are so upset, you get hysterical. Then they try to give you something you can tolerate. You learn to get hysterical because it works, and it is really, really important to you.


Tactile defensiveness is a sensory integration problem. Kids who have it may be unable to tolerate certain sensations, or may crave exaggerated sensations. They might hate being touched unless they initiate it. They might have certain other behavior problems that puzzle their parents and teachers. People might say they are too fussy, or that they cause trouble. You can look sensory integration and tactile defensiveness up on-line. One good site is for The Out-of-Sync Child.

All the clothes you list are very common agitators for some people. Elastic waist bands or cuffs. Form fitting socks, or loose socks that might bunch up and wrinkle. Stiff materials, rough materials. These things might not feel rough or tight to us, but they feel just horrible to her, and there is just no way for her to ignore it. If she is forced to wear it, she might stop complaining about it, but she might be fidgety and cranky and unable to focus that day because it bothers her so much.

If she is tactilly defensive, she needs some help. It's not something her mom or anyone else "should" have known. I know about it because of my education, training, and profession, and also because my grandson has a sensory integrative disorder. He is a bright, happy, wonderful 3-year old, but there are some real issues for him. Luckily, there are things that can be done to help.


If she doesn't have this problem, then adjustments just need to be made. Heck, nothing wrong with personal preference. No guilt for the little sweetie! The underwear problem might be from the elastic, so it will be tough. I don't know of any that don't use elastic. It sounds like the rest will be easier. Loose, soft clothing might be the key. Also changing detergent/fabric softener might help.

Sorry I wrote such a long response. Hope it was helpful! (05/20/2010)

By schyresti

7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

With that many aversions to clothing I would suggest that she may be on the autism spectrum. Does she have other idiosyncrasies compared to her peers? She may be a high functioning autistic child or just on the spectrum, sometimes this is hereditary, is there anyone else in her mother or father's family with tactile problems or deficient in social skills? Good luck. (05/20/2010)

By yoder178

7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

schyrest has covered the whole issue well.

As an adoptive mom, my kids had these issues along with the FAS and probably AS (aspergers). We did brushing and compressions and it helped.

Did she wear training panties? if so what is different? Softer? Elastic covered? Baggier? Tighter? Material, etc.

If she wore new underwear with tags it will feel like someone is cutting into her. The sizing in new clothes can take more than one washing to get out, another reason yard sales are best.

Hand me downs worked best, no tags. New clothes take a long time to get to the point of comfortable, lots of screaming and problems, avoid the hassles yard sales are your friend.

If you sew consider trying to make underwear (use bathing suit pattern). Try flannel or recycled t-shirt material. Try various types of elastic, there is a wide lacy type elastic that distributes the pressure vs just in one area. If they have a sensitivity to the elastic itself put in a casing (I can't wear most bras, I break out in red rash, and if I wear long enough it turns into blisters).

In the old days there was underwear similar to the new style boxers that were like shorts (no leg elastic).

My third son would only wear sweats, t-shirts from yard sales because the necks were stretched out.
My second son always had to have a t-shirt under long flannel shirts (we are in Maine) because they moved and touched skin at different places.
My girlfriend's dear daughter will only wear capri type tights, no jeans, or sweats if they touch her ankles (has to be pant cut not elastic). (05/21/2010)


7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

Maybe she is allergic to the laundry soap or fabric softener. (05/21/2010)

By craftyme

7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

I am on the same thinking lines with Yoder and Schyresti. I would take her to the doctor and talk with them about it since it is not just the underwear! (05/21/2010)

By Teresa Kay

7 Year Old Child Refuses to Wear Underwear and Other Clothing Items

My son and first child was exactly like this. He was very specific about what clothes he would wear. No jeans, no shirts with seams, no underwear with buttons, no briefs, only some boxers. He would not wear any clothes with any metal on it. He didn't even like to look at certain color metals like on a door knob. He used our silverware at home, but everywhere else he used plastic. It drove me crazy. I bought hundreds of dollars of clothes that he wouldn't wear. I begged, pleaded and punished. Nothing worked. Finally I gave in and let him do what felt comfortable to him and "it worked".

He is now 22 and in his final year at a great college. He turned out to be a very smart kid and got a free ride to college. He met a wonderful girl who loves him despite the fact that she can't wear earrings around him. I am so proud of him. Don't worry. Sorry so long. (05/21/2010)


By TC in MO

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