Age-Appropriate Clothes

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the day-to-day challenges of autism that we fail to realize our child is growing up. For a variety of reasons, we may want to keep in mind the value of selecting age-appropriate items when shopping for clothes and shoes.

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Many youngsters with autism do not have a sense of style, and they rarely indicate they want to impress others with their clothing, even as teenagers. And, to be honest, I have no sense of style, and I don’t care what other people think of what I wear, or of what my sons wear. But, in the case of youngsters dealing with a myriad of issues each day, we can add to quality of life if we give some thought to providing age-appropriate clothing and shoes. The motivation for dressing our youngsters like their peers can result from any one of several principles:

1. BLENDING IN. Take a look at the other kids in your child’s class and shape his wardrobe to match. For example, it might be that our second-grader will blend in with friends at school if she is wearing jeans, t-shirt, and athletic shoes rather than her cute color-coordinated Sunday dress with matching shoes. When she is a teenager, she may need your help in selecting clothes, not to impress others, but to allow her to fit in comfortably and blend with others, at least visually.

2. TRANSITION. As our little ones grow from toddler to kid, and from kid to pre-teen, teen, and young adult, they deal with many transitions, and often cling to everything in the “old” stage – books, songs, tv shows, stuffed animals, favorite foods. Some would love to keep wearing that same toddler t-shirt or flip-flops, but the fact remains that they will outgrow items. If we start early with age-appropriate clothing, we might be able to smooth the transition as far as shoes and clothes are concerned.

3. RESPECT. Even when our youngsters have limited skills, we want to show them that we respect them, for example, as teenagers or young adults by helping them look like their peers instead of a tall toddler.

TIP FOR THE DAY: Again, we are not advising you to try to impress others, but rather to help our friends with autism select clothing that is age-appropriate, comfortable, and similar to that worn by their friends.

And, speaking of comfortable, I hope some of the ideas in these daily podcasts add a bit of comfort to your life. We depend on you to spread the word about, so tell a friend or two today to click on the website and subscribe to these daily blurbs. Talk to you tomorrow!

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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