“Most people know that problems can arise with the sense of hearing and the sense of sight, but few people realize that problems can also arise with the sense of touch.”  –Hardy Brain Training

As I’ve watched my daughter make the transition to third grade this fall, I’ve noticed that many, many of the girls her age are now wearing blue jeans most of the time.  And yes, there are some really cute jeans out there for girls.

But Amy will only wear jeans on a rare occasion.  Why?  Because they just don’t feel good.  Even those that are clearly the right size will rub and catch against her knees when she bends, or pull down too far in the back of the waist, or just fit too tightly.

And then there’s socks.  The seams don’t lay right across the toes.  The heart design that looks so cute on the outside rubs the legs on the inside.  Shirts with elastic ribbing or applique designs are too scratchy.  And so on.

Amy has told me, “Mom, I’m not a fashion girl.  I’m a comfort girl.”  I like her distinction.  What she doesn’t realize is that there’s actually an explanation for her aversion to certain clothes.

Years back, my husband Brian and I had many discussions about clothes when my stepson was a child.  He, too, could only wear the softest clothes, the least confining shoes (usually boots, even in the summer!), and no socks.  Brian taught me about a condition called tactile sensitivity, or tactile defensiveness.  It falls under the category of sensory processing disorders (SPD).  The nervous systems of people with SPD interpret a tactile stimulus differently than that of those without the disorder. 

If you are wondering whether or not your girl is affected by tactile sensitivity, take this quiz.  I feel fortunate that at this point Amy only has slight tactile sensitivity, and it seems to only exhibit in the realm of apparel. 

I’ve heard from other moms whose daughters have tactile sensitivity that they’ve grown out of it, and now wear a broader selection of clothes.  Several reference websites, however, maintain that the only way to get through tactile sensitivity is occupational therapy.  I think this is something you would have to consider based on the severity of the symptoms.

In the meantime, I don’t shop for pants or shoes for Amy without her present to try things on.  I only mail order shirts from certain companies that use rich, soft cotton.  And, honestly, I’ve struggled with assaults on my own sense of fashion when she picks a baggy pair of sweats to wear to school.  I have to remind myself that it’s not my decision anyway.

If you have a girl who can wear a wide range of fabrics and styles, please let her know that not everyone has this luxury.  A girl’s choice of clothing doesn’t always have to do with her fashion sense!

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a writer, parent, and stepparent located in Northern Colorado.  For more information on her stepparenting book, go to www.dianefromme.com.

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