Matching Socks

Self-sufficiency can be an elusive goal for individuals with autism. Teachers, family members, job coaches, therapists, and others can help their friends with autism take steps toward being more independent by removing as many of the little barriers and logistical issues that arise in a day. Sometimes those barriers are something as simple as matching socks.

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Many of my friends with autism get bogged down in details. Others just ignore details and only look at the big picture. For example, one person may be obsessed with making certain their socks are an exact match, while another friend with autism may not even notice that he forgot to put socks on his feet before leaving the house, even on a very cold day.

Sometimes we can introduce little strategies to help smooth over some of the details of daily living so our friends can concentrate more important issues. Here are a few ideas related to personal care to get your creative juices flowing so you can develop some personalized strategies.

1. MATCHING SOCKS. Consider purchasing only one brand and one color of socks so your friend with autism doesn’t need to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to locate an exact match to a lonely sock. If you only have one brand/style/color, every sock matches the next as they come out of the dryer. No one is sent on a wild goose chase looking for an elusive, wayward sock to match.

2. FAVORITE CLOTHES. Some people with autism love to wear the same shirt day after day. Life can get pretty rugged when the shirt is in the laundry or when the shirt finally wears out. If your friend with autism tends to attach to one shirt, consider purchasing two of the same t-shirts – or jeans, jacket, or shoes for that matter – when a favorite is found. Having a matching pair doubles the life of an obsessive favorite. Granted, our best strategy is to teach our friends with autism to be flexible about such things and to ignore their obsessions, but that is often easier said than done.

3. FAVORITE PILLOW. The “double-up” strategy also works well for favorite bedding. If you can see your friend is quite attached to a favorite pillow, sheet, blanket, or pajamas, zip to the store and buy a duplicate so you have some leeway for washing items without causing a major meltdown.

TIP FOR THE DAY. One key to contentment for individuals with autism and the people around them is to find ways to smooth out daily life so they can focus on personal relationships rather than wasting time and energy obsessing about little details such as perfectly matched socks.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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