Helpful Tips for Assisting your Child with Special Needs Wear Winter Gear

I have a love-hate relationship with winter. I personally enjoy the cold weather, and yes, even snow! My kids have even inherited a love of winter from me. However, that does not mean they are compliant with wearing all the necessary winter weather gear like hats, gloves, coats, and snow boots. Sometimes I myself do not want to wear a coat or a hat! I know for many families with kids with special needs, convincing them to wear (and not lose!) the winter gear is a struggle. After years of managing this issue, I’ve got a few helpful tips to offer winter-gear-weary parents.

Many times, the reason kids with special needs don’t want to wear winter gear is sensory issues. We all know that clothing tags can be irritating, so be sure to remove tags from things like gloves, snowpants, and coats. The tags on those items can still be felt through clothing and around the wrists. Also be careful about the fabric and texture of winter clothing items. Most sensitive kids prefer fleece items over wool or cotton. A loose fleece jacket has been our go-to for our cool fall mornings. My kids prefer a fleece pullover to a more traditional sweater in winter months. 

One way to help your kids accept their winter gear is to take them shopping and let them help choose it. That way, not only can they test it out for comfort, but it gives them a sense of control and ownership over what they’ll be wearing. This takes more time than ordering online, but if successful, you’ll save time and have fewer struggles on busy mornings.

Speaking of those busy mornings, we’ve all had times where we’ve gotten out the door late because our child refused to put on her winter gear. Here are 3 ideas for easing that process:

  1. Set your alarm earlier and build extra time into your schedule to allow for putting on the winter gear. Being rushed leads to increased stress (and a potential meltdown) for both you and your child.
  2. If your child uses a visual schedule in the morning, add a section for putting on winter gear at the proper time.
  3. Make a game of putting on everything…first one with everything on wins a prize! (something small, like a sticker)

Wearing gloves is a common issue for kids with special needs. Mittens are a much easier solution! If you have trouble finding mittens in larger sizes, try looking for ski mittens or asking a crafty friend to knit a pair. In a pinch, you can use tube socks over the hands, which has the added benefit of being harder to remove if rolled over the arms. 

Look for snow boots that zip instead of slip-ons or ones with laces. The zippers make putting on and taking off super-easy. Usually they can accommodate leg or foot braces if left unzipped.

Try hoods instead of hats. Hoods are less restrictive, yet still warm and protective. An added bonus is that since it’s attached to the coat, it’s one less item to keep track of.

For extra-sensitive kids or people who require wheelchairs, consider a warm, hooded poncho in lieu of a coat. 

For special challenges, like diaper access for kids who aren’t potty trained, search online for “adaptive clothing.” 

And lastly, if your school-aged child refuses to wear his winter gear, bring the items to school anyway or pack them in his backpack. Hopefully he’ll be more willing later on.

Always feel free to ask your Occupational Therapist for help with any specific challenges with your child with special needs. I hope you and your child enjoy your next snowball fight!