Thursday, September 22, 2011

Clothing Cami

A few weeks ago, my mom—Cami’s Grammy—called and asked me, “If I bought Cami some clothes and sent them to her, do you think she would wear them?”
The answer is complicated. Cami’s sensory issues and dyspraxia challenges create a fashion conundrum. So I made a list.
The Cami Clothing Guide
1.       Only Cotton
No knits, wools, or linens.
Rayon and spandex only sometimes, but not for very long.
2.      Only Pants
Crawling = one of Cami’s coping behaviors. It’s harder to crawl in a skirt/dress.
3.      Only Drawstring Pants and T-shirts
Dyspraxia = no buttons, zippers, or ties.
Sensory challenges = no shirt collars and NEVER lace.
4.      Only Slip-On or Velcro-Strapped Shoes
Dyspraxia = no tying shoelaces. (Cami knows how; it just takes her forever.)
Why Crocs are our best friend!
5.      Only Sleeved Shirts
Cami says she “just doesn’t like them.” I think it’s because sleeveless apparel allows more skin to come in contact with the air, leaving more of her surface exposed to sensory experiences. Maybe it’s from her sense of modesty, which is a huge gift from God. (Thank You, Lord!) Either way, she refuses to wear anything sleeveless (even nightclothes).
No, Cami didn’t come with her clothing guide attached. I’ve arrived at this information through 11 years of trial and error, years of watching my girl’s cues, evaluating the moments preceding a meltdown, eliminating other possible causes for each incident, adding and subtracting variables, hypothesizing and testing hypotheses.
Sometimes I find myself wishing Cami was a baby again so that I wouldn’t have to work so hard to find clothes that fit her, are modest, and meet her sensory challenge needs. Yet in many ways, clothing Cami now is easier than when she was small because she has language now to tell me if clothes are hitting her sensory buttons. When she was a baby, all she could do was scream and all I could do was guess.
When I’m feeling particularly patient, I take her clothes shopping with me so she can feel the clothing’s textures. I have to admit, sometimes this doesn’t work. The most success I’ve had with this method is at the thrift store. I tend to shop at thrift stores and outlet stores to avoid spending money on clothes that Cami may or may not wear. Even when I’ve used the Cami Clothing Guide, sometimes a piece of apparel will hang in her closet never worn until she outgrows it. Who has money to risk like that? Most of the thrift stores we shop in are fundraisers for local charities. I feel good about supporting their work.
One of those thrift stores is set up so that the clothes are all over the store. I can let Cami wander the “interesting aisles” while I look through the clothing aisles, and she’s never more than one or two aisles away from me. I also limit our time there. The time limit often depends on how her mood is when we walked in the door.
Trying on clothes, however, exhausts both of us. That’s when a trip to a clothing outlet store is the best choice. With a promise of a special treat afterwards, Cami only has to hold it together just long enough for us to find two or three styles that she will tolerate. Next, we head to the fitting room a try on the styles. If we find workable styles, then she’s released from her misery and I buy one in every color.
This clothing shopping method works because Cami’s sense of personal style hasn’t kicked in yet. Hopefully, by the time she has style preferences, she’ll also know herself and the way she’s made so that she can make wise choices that work for her. That’s the goal, right? Equipping our hidden-disability children with the information and confidence they need to care for themselves.
I think we’re well on our way to that. Cami loved most of the clothes Grammy sent her. I’m grateful for the help. With both of us armed with the Cami Clothing Guide, when Grammy shops at the stores in Florida and I shop at stores in Virginia, we’re bound to find clothes Cami is willing to wear.
Thanking God for cotton clothing.

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