It’s back-to-school time. The time of year when I drag two unwilling participants known as our boys, ages 8 and 10, to go uniform shopping.
Our first stop this week was shoe shopping. Like most average boys, their shoe sizes increase dramatically by the month. Unlike most average boys, our children have autism. The sensory issues related to autism can cause hiccups—and quite frankly, stress—when shopping in the shoe and uniform departments.
We almost exclusively buy Skechers shoes for our boys. Not because of the way they look, although our youngest is quite fond of the light-up shoes, but because they have a large section of shoes with Velcro. You see, Velcro distributes pressure evenly on the foot, unlike shoelaces, according to my oldest. They are also less likely to come undone and cause a midday meltdown at school.
While at the Skechers store, a lovely attendant measured our children’s feet. The youngest went first, and he blissfully picked out the wildest looking pair he could find. Next went our oldest. The employee looked at me sympathetically and near whispered, “He’s a size 6, sweetie, and that is in the men’s section.” The obvious reason for my subsequent wet eyes is that our child has graduated to the men’s section. I am not ready for that, and feel the need to be held while his childhood slips through my fingers.
The other reason for my tears is not so obvious: no more Velcro. No more Velcro. Does this mean that now that my oldest wears shoes with shoelaces instead of Velcro, he has moved past the midday-meltdown stage? Or does this mean we’ll have an extra 30 minutes every morning getting dressed because the shoelaces aren’t quite right? Or when they come undone or feel uncomfortable? Will the school nurse call me multiple times a week because he is in her office crying about his shoelaces?
After the shoes, my next cause of anxiety is their uniforms. The most important thing to remember with uniforms and sensory issues is this: Don’t run out of their favorite uniform pieces. God forbid something happens to most of their pants when they are out of season and off the racks for the rest of the year. Bad meltdowns are a guarantee.
I learned the hard way. Last year, I was going to be prepared, and so I bought five of everything, enough to last me a full week before I had to do laundry again. It was also enough that if something happened, which inevitably it does, we’d be able to at least rotate. And then it happened. Two pairs ripped. A third pair’s zipper broke. We were down to two pairs of pants. Okay, I thought, we’re a month away from school getting out, I can do this. Except that my son didn’t like one of the pairs of pants because they were unlike the others. They felt different. No less than 45 minutes of our precious time in the morning was devoted to this same damn conversation, every single day for a month, and then he would get onto the bus, heartbroken because of a pair of navy uniform pants.
This year I’ve decided I’m going to buy more of everything. I’ll make sure the mornings are easier on all of us. And so I pull out last year’s pants for him to try on, and his tears start to flow.
“They’re too tight.”
“They’re not soft.”
“Why can’t I wear my soft pants to school?”
He’s referring to his fleece pants, which, while navy, are not uniform compliant. Not to mention it’s 100 degrees here. But he would rather be drenched in sweat than wear uncomfortable clothes. We have the argument weekly that his fleece pants are meant only for the house, and only when it’s less than 80 degrees outside. These arguments are exhausting, even when you factor in that I am generally a patient person.
At some point, I began to wonder, Why don’t they make easier and softer clothes for people with sensory issues? Why are these clothes only offered in the baby section? And then, in my Facebook feed was a story about a former CNN anchor, Lauren Thierry, who did just that. Let me state for the record: This woman is a damn genius. Seriously.
Thierry created a clothing line, aptly named “Independence Day Clothing,” to solve such problems. Each piece of clothing can be worn in any direction (there is no front or back) or inside out, and has no tags, zippers or buttons. Like I said, genius.
I immediately went to buy what Thierry was offering to me: hope. Unfortunately, most of her pieces had already sold out in a few short months. Why, you ask? An estimated 16.5 percent of school-age children have sensory processing issues. That’s a lot of children giving their parents the same grief getting dressed every morning, similar to what I’ve described here. And there is nowhere else to buy what she is offering.
My question is why has it taken so long? Why did it take a desperate mother having the same frustrations I am having to create this clothing line? Why aren’t more clothing lines doing this? Aren’t they listening to us?
Clearly they are not. Kudos and a giant high-five to the mom who did. I would send her a giant bouquet on behalf of the parents of the 16.5 percent if I knew her address. I can’t wait to get our first shipment—once they’re not sold out, of course.
For more information on Independence Day Clothing, visit www.independencedayclothing.com.