Special needs clothing advice

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Finding special needs clothing if you have difficulty lifting your arms or legs, or controlling your hand movement, can get really difficult. So, we've put together this helpful special needs clothing advice for you.

We know it's tough. Not only do you need to find clothes that meet your needs, but you'll want clothes that look good, feel good and are appropriate for each occasion. Unfortunately, it can be a challenge.

Special needs clothing is often designed to meet the needs of people in wheelchairs, but also takes into consideration difficulties in handling buttons and other closures as well.

Clothing also often has to consider the needs of caregivers as well, especially in an institutional setting.

Traditionally, much of the adaptive clothing market has developed to meet the needs of elderly people. Rightly or wrongly, because of this, much of the fashion needs of those with special needs hasn't been given much attention.

We wanted to pass on some tips on what to look for in adaptive clothing based on own experience and research.These are questions we suggest that you ask when making clothing choices for your special needs. 

special needs clothing

How easy it is to put on?

Things to consider are whether the item needs to go on over the head and how easy it is to put on sleeves. In our case, dealing with disability of cerebral palsy, we found that having a larger neckline than usual, and ensuring that the neckline has some elasticity to it made a big difference.

Snaps, Velcro and Easy Touch closures make dressing a breeze! We also look for sleeves that are large, but that have some elasticity at the wrist. Your special needs may be different, but it helps to give some thought to exactly what clothing features will make life easier.

How easy is it to open and close?

The most popular fastener for adaptive clothing is Velcro strips, but snaps are another popular option. You'll probably find that snaps will give a cleaner, more 'normal' look to clothing, but you may want to ensure that snaps can be managed easily depending on the type of disability.

How comfortable is the clothing?

Look for material which 'breathes' and doesn't bunch up easily when transferring from standing to sitting and vice versa. This is more likely to meet special needs related to mobility disabilities.

How easy is it to clean the special needs garment?

If you're dealing with a disability like cerebral palsy, as we do, then you may need to deal with things like drool and dropped food. Having material that is easy to clean and repels stains can be an important detail when looking for your adaptive clothing.

Can the garment handle industrial washers & dryers?

One detail that will make a difference in industrial washers and dryers is the use of fasteners like Velcro. You may find that this style of fastener may not hold up well in industrial equipment. On the other hand, if improper snaps are used, they too may cause problems if they aren't attached properly to the fabric. For best results, look for snaps that are attached to separate fabric tabs, rather than to the fabric itself.

Does the garment need ironing?

Who needs ironing anyway? Most of us can benefit from having one less task to do - whether we are physically able to do the ironing or not. When you're dealing with special needs, the last thing we need to worry about when caring for adaptive clothing is ironing - look for permanent press.

Does the material flow well and fit and move comfortably?

Depending on the disability, you may find that you'll get more mobility from a fabric and design that has extra give, especially around the shoulder area.

Is the clothing made of durable fabric?

Adaptive clothing tends to be more difficult to find, and often more expensive than regular clothing. Make sure you get your money worth with fabrics and colour treatments that can handle repeated washings well.

How absorbent is the material?

The absorbency of material will be a factor when dealing with perspiration, drool and other possible leaks. If you have a special need or disability where this is an issue, than you may be well advised to do a quick absorbency test on the fabric - or at least check the literature from the manufacturer. 


We hope that you've found these questions useful in choosing clothing that meets your needs. If you have other tips that you'd like to share, or other feedback to offer please contact us to share tips on special needs clothing. 


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