how to handle an obsessive compulsive issues with clothes - 5 yr old

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by DesperatelyTrying, Apr 10, 2010.

  1. My daughter has this thing. Everything she wears has to be tight. And, I mean: so tight that she bruises herself, clothing rips, snaps break, etc... If I don't tie her shoes tight enough (and I never can), she kicks and screams, throws them across the room.... If I don't put them on: they don't get on. If I do manage to get her shoes/clothing on with the right fit, she only takes them off the second I start driving the car. We show up to school looking like I'm a lazy mom who didn't bother to dress her kid for school. :sad-very: It can take over 2 hours of effort on my part to get her ready.

    Getting her into her school uniform: impossible. Finding belts small enough that are in dress code...I haven't found one yet. Not sure it would help anyway though. The issue is the obsessive need of hers to make things so tight that they hurt. Even to the point of the snap not staying on and her clothes bursting open at school. That doesn't phase her.

    How do I handle this? If I give her the right to dress herself: she's not in the school's dress code, and in general: she looks inappropriate and I look like a bad mother. If I fight the battles to dress her properly, it's more than an hour or two long screaming meltdown fit, and in the end: she has the last word because she undoes everything the second I'm out of the room or driving the car. I just cut off all the adjustable bands and make her have to pull her pants up all the time (they are too big without the bands) to keep them on? I fear that will only increase her agitation/stress/need for control which will turn into a different compulsion.

    <sigh> what do i do? I've talked to her about the need to be gentle with her body. No effect. I've talked to her about looking normal. No effect. I've made rules with consequences (haha: no effect). I've tried the reward system. That at least makes her get the clothes ON, but...not on appropriately. My trying to change anything she wants: meltdown, screaming all the way to school, crying at school, anger fits... So. What do I do? What is the proper way to handle Obsessive Compulsive behaviour in a child?
    Lasted edited by : Apr 10, 2010
  2. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    It sounds as if she might have sensory sensitivities. You might want to have her evaluated by an Occupational Therapist who has expertise in Sensory Integration Disorder. The therapist can also do therapy that will help calm these sensitivities in your daughter. There's also a book called The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz, which describes the disorder and gives ideas for dealing with it.

    Welcome. I'm glad you found us.
  3. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Welcome Desperately Trying,

    I agree with Smallworld that your daughter might have sensory issues. I second the recommendation of The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz.

    One thing you might consider in the interim is finding a way to accommodate your daughter's sensory need in a less harmful way. I have sensory issues, and like your daughter, I like to have things very tight. As a little girl, my grandmother suggested that I wear my dance leotard under my clothes. It met my need to have something tight-fitting close to my body, while letting me wear my clothes in a socially acceptable manner. Around the house, sometimes I used to just wear my dance leotard or catsuit, or a bathing suit. But when I left the house, the rule was I had to wear something appropriate over it.

    I wonder if something like that might work for your daughter as well. I would still follow up with an Occupational Therapist, but as a starting point that might slow down some of the daily battles.

  4. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    I'd have this child evaluated by a neuropsychologist. What you describe sounds like sensory integration disorder or Sensory Integration Disorder (SID), not Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) often goes hand in hand with other disorders such as autism/Asperger's Syndrome.

    I have Sensory Integration Disorder (SID), but mine is the opposite. I cannot tolerate tight fitting clothing at all. I wear baggy stuff. Believe it or not, with her wiring, she NEEDS that compression from her clothing. It keeps her centered in her body (only way I can describe it).

    I would wonder if a weighted vest would help her. It would provide the compression she seems to need. Once you have the NP testing completed, consider having her seen by an occupational therapist or Occupational Therapist (OT), to see what they can do to help with the clothing issues. There are techniques such as brushing and joint compressions that often help these kids.

    BUT, you need to be taught how to do them for your specific child by an Occupational Therapist (OT). It is NOT something you can pick up by reading a book.

    Meanwhile, schedule the neuropsychology exam asap. They are usually affiliated with childrens' or university hospitals and the wait can be quite long. Check and see if your ins will cover it.
  5. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Another thought...
    With regard to your daughter's shoes, I used to wear layers of socks. Two or three pairs at a time. It might be worth trying that with your daughter, as she'll be able to get the tight feeling without hurting her feet.

    One thing to keep in mind. If it is a Sensory Integration Disorder that your daughter is dealing with, battling over wearing her clothes appropriately won't work. The sensory issues are an imperative that must be met one way or another. It's possible to find more constructive ways of dealing with them, but I suspect that trying to get her to stop entirely is a losing battle.

    Sorry that you're struggling, but glad you found us.

  6. crazymama30

    crazymama30 Active Member

    Trinity gave you some great advice. Get your dtr evaled by a neuropsychologist or even an Ocupational therapist, one that specializes in children. this is very frustrating for you, but it is nobody's fault, not yours nor your dtrs.

    Hugs and glad you found us.
  7. You are making my heart ache. Tights under the pants, multiple pairs of socks under the shoes... I'm ready to cry. These are things my daughter has also been doing and I've been telling her "no". I've been looking at this from the totally wrong perspective. Sometimes it seems like she's just trying to find some new way to get my goat, make me spend more money on ruined socks, or whatnot. I have zero knowledge of Sensory Integration Disorder (SID), and I'm going to start learning all I can about it right now. I will get the book all of you mentioned. And I'll get some sort of test lined up to help us get some answers. And until all of that is done: I'm taking her shopping right now for some tights and extra socks. God, I feel terrible. It's so hard to view some of this stuff as "needs"... this is all so foreign and hard to understand. Her rage, her unusual demandings... my boys are nothing like this. But, I'll do anything. Thank you SOOO much for all your insight.
  8. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    You have gotten awesome advice. I also strongly recommend neuropsychologist testing and testing by a private Occupational Therapist (OT). Schools DO have OTs but they usually test only for stuff that impacts academics, so often they will not look at the sensory stuff as much. The book smallworld recommended is great. The same author also has a book called "The Out-of-Sync-Child Has Fun" that is full of activities that give various kinds of sensory input. You may find some that your daughter likes and this can help fuflill her sensory needs.

    Your daughter is not trying to hurt herself, nor is she trying to be difficult or defiant. Her body and brain are telling her she MUST have the sensation of having her clothing that tight. It is hard to describe how she feels when her clothes are loose, but most everything in the world feels wrong to her. She truly FEELS off or wrong or out of place.

    As for looking like a lazy mom, well, those of us parenting differently wired kids have to develop thick skins and learn what matters and what doesn't. What others think occupies a lower rung on the ladder than making sure your child is able to learn and cope with the world. Here on this site we refer to that thick skin as "rhino skin armor". we can imagine the various things other people say and think as arrows that just bounce off the rhino skin that protects us.

    There may be some Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in her behavior, but I have a feeling it is secondary if it exists. This is where the neuropsychologist testing will help.

    You are not alone. I have a son who chews. He requires a LOT of oral chewing to function. We have used necklaces and tubes and other things for him to chew on, but he always ends up chewing his shirts. If he has long sleeves they are usually wet a couple inches up from the wrist. It is not uncommon for them to be spit soaked up to the elbow. If his shirt is short sleeved then he chews the collar. Some days the front of his shirt is wet halfway down or more. This year, 4th grade, is the first year I did not keep a clean shirt in a ziploc in his backpack. He could change into the clean one and put the wet one in the ziploc. I stopped because he would not take the shirts OUT and they mildewed badly. Yuck.

    Other parents look at him funny. Teachers don't really like it. That is THEIR problem. We work with him, it is better than it was (have you ever tried to nurse a child who liked to chew from birth? It was a fun 7 months, lol) He is my 3rd and I had pretty good rhino armor by then so the funny looks were not a problem. We have been BLESSED with an excellent school with teachers and staff who really understand his problems/quirks and work amazingly well with him (by the way this is the "poorest" and "worst" school in our district - and he could NOT get a better education at the private schools in town!)

    With a leotard under her clothes, and tights too, she may be able to follow the dress code. If the school cannot work with her, or is too set on seeing her as "defiant" or "difficult", you may want to look at other schools. Often public schools are better at working with our kids because they have more resources to deal with kids who are not neurotypical. Your daughter may be eligible for an IEP which will provide supports for her so that she can learn as effectively as possible.

    I am glad you are here! Welcome!!! If possible, could you go to the "My Profile" tab at the top right of the screen and make a signature? No real names, or identifying info or pictures, but basic info to help us keep your details together. thanks!!

    stick around, check out the archives and FAQ! We are happy you are here (but sad you need to be here, Know what I mean??)

  9. crazymama30

    crazymama30 Active Member

    It is easy to see the behavior as malicious or trying to get your goat, but that is not her purpose. she is just so uncomfortable, and is trying to find a way to be comfortable. It is frustrating, but read the book, google Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) and sensory issues. I am sure that there is lots of info on the net, maybe someone here with more knowledge of Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) can give a good link.

    Hang in there. You are on the right track. Get the book, the evaluations, and I second Susie, if you can do a private evaluation do so. I have stayed away from the school district as much as possible when it comes to treatment for my son. My insurance covers it so I am lucky. If you do not have insurance, ask the school via certified letter for an Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluation. They do have Occupational Therapist (OT)'s, but make sure to use certified letter. Google writes' law and FAPE.
  10. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

  11. tictoc

    tictoc New Member

    You have gotten great advice here...Just wanted to add that a snug swim shirt is another option for her to wear under her clothes.
  12. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    been there done that on all of this. We all feel bad when we realize we've been treating kids as if "they won't" as opposed to "they can't".

    What I'd suggest doing is making an appointment with your pediatrician and ask for a referral to a pediatric occupational therapist. You could also go through the school district but since it's impacting her at home as well, you need to cover the homefront. On the clothes front, find something that works for her and buy multiples: at one point we had 6 pairs of the same style shorts, same style shirts, and all socks were exactly the same.

    What is comfortable to her for sleeping?

    You can learn to help her with this. For now I'd suggest starting to keep a log to record patterns of her reactions to sensory stimuli: how does she respond to textures, pressure, motion, water, temperature, sound, lights, foods, odors, etc. What aggitates her and what makes her feel better/calmer.

    Does she attend a private or public school?
  13. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    It took me a while to compose my answer so I missed yours above.

    PLEASE try not to feel bad. You didn't do what you did out of meanness. You approached it from the side that most people who have no experience with this would. You NEVER woke up and asked yourself "What can I do to be mean to my child today? How can I be the most awful that I can be to her?" I KNOW you didn't, cause you came here and asked for help. That PROVES that you are doing the best you can with what you have.

    You have more info now, so you are going to do better to address what is really going on. THAT is what matters in the long run!!

    Give yourself a pat on the back for looking for more info so that you can help her, rather than the kick in the pants because you told her no!!

    Not sure these will fit now, but there is a company called Tom Shoes ( and they make a wrap boot for adult women. The foot part is like a shoe and from the ankle up it is an elastic wrap. I looked at them for my daughter who always has a sprain or strain in an ankle.

    You might look at them and then ask if they can make one for your daughter. They are very responsive, from what I understand.

    You also might consider elastic bandages, like ace bandages. For my sprainy strainy daughter I buy them 50 at a time for about $25-30 shipped. These would allow her to wrap an arm or leg or even her torso up enough to be comfortable. I don't buy the top quality, though you might want to consider the ones with elastic instead of the little metal fasteners.

    Vet wrap is another item you might find useful. It is a tape that sticks only to itself. Some docs offices and labs use it to keep cotton on after they draw blood. It is used in animals to wrap legs for support, keep bandages on, etc.... Farm and Home stores sell it, and it comes in all kinds of wild colors. I know you don't always want to show her tight items, but this might be fun to accessorize with. For people I think it is called cohesive bandages, but they are available cheaper and in more colors at farm and home stores. I get this at Atwoods, but Tractor Supply also carries it, as do most feed stores. It is spelled "Vetrap".

    Be NICE to yourself - you are doing your best!!!

  14. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    I agree completely with Susie's statement. Please don't beat yourself up. You have taken the time and trouble to come looking for help for your daughter, exactly as a loving, caring, Warrior Mom does.

    It is really easy to miss or mis-label sensory issues. My mother (a physiotherapist) AND my father (a PAEDIATRICIAN) both put my sensory issues down to bratty behaviour. It was my grandmother, who had raised eight of her own children and was raising me, who figured out what I needed and how to help me with it.

    Be kind to yourself. You're doing great.

  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    You've had some good advice. I note that GoingNorth mentioned the weighted vests - we got one of these for difficult child 3, it really helped although he was a bit self-conscious about wearing it to school, especially since there was a lot of bullying at the time and the teacher was not handling it well. We have school uniforms here so it's more difficult to 'hide' something like a vest.

    You can also get weighted blankets which help at bedtime. Or the child might be happy being tucked in firmly, although when they toss and turn, a weighted blanket is more likely to stay in place but still provide freer movement.

    The way the weighted vest worked - it was made of strong calico (non-stretch) and had lots of long, vertical pockets sewn into it, all around (a bit like a photographer's vest). The seams were French seams, so there was no thick bit of fabric digging in. In the little pockets we had long, narrow sandbags made with double-stitched French seams and each containing 200 g of sand. We could add these around the vest accordingly, I believe the idea is to have about 10% of the child's weight, no more, in the vest. We could remove sandbags or put them in, depending on what was comfortable. If you're handy with a sewing machine, you could make this yourself.

    easy child 2/difficult child 2 developed her won way of handling this issue - yes, she would wear leotards to school under her uniform, but the problem here is - what does the child do when they have to go to the toilet? Unless the leotard has snaps in the crotch, you have to undress for toileting, which can be awkward at school. So what easy child 2/difficult child 2 did (although she was 18 at the time) was, she bought a corset. One of the reproduction Victorian ones, she bought it from a bondage store. Her corsets are made to be seen, they are made of various fabrics such as brocade, velvet or similar, very pretty. But they are also robust and can be laced very tightly. We set a rule that she had to lace herself in, not get someone else to do it. That way she was unlikely to overdo the lacing.

    She says it's like "wearing a hug".

    Temple Grandin mentions (in her books as well as her talks) the cattle crush machine she adapted, so she could control pressure self-applied. She needed to be in control of it, but also found that being compressed like this helps her calm herself down.

    This sounds to me like acoping skill your daughter has developed, to help her adapt to the world which is not the easiest place for her to live in.

    If you can, and as you can, talk to her about health and how she is permitted to have some control over the pressure her clothing gives her, but some practical issues need to be considered.

    First, if it's pressure she wants, she needs to get it form the right kind of clothing. Some fabrics will stretch too much or be damaged, and should be reserved for outer wear only.

    Second, this is not always socially acceptable and a lot of people won't understand. So this needs to be done as under-wear, not outer wear as a rule.

    Third, health and safety has to be also taken into account. Someone mentioned elastic compression bandages - these can cause a blockage in the lymphatic circulation and this is not healthy. For example, in Australia the first aid treatment for funnelweb spider bite, is compression bandage over the bite and then up the limb towards the heart, bandaging right up to the joint (hip or shoulder). This is aimed to block lymphatic circulation, so the body can begin to break down the spider venom. It really works well, but it begins to make the tissues feel waterlogged and swollen. A tight compression bandage does need to be released every so often, to let the pressure off to allow the lymph to circulate.

    Something else to consider (you really need to ask her why and try to understand how she feels with and without compression) is the possibility that she wants this because her joints are loose. A problem I've noticed in a subset of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids (especially high-functioning autism and Asperger's) is loose or hypermobile joints. Strapping them or bandaging them can give them the semblance of strength and reduce pain levels. Remember, for a young kid, this is "normal" for her, feeling like this. They will of course think that everyone else understands because they feel the same way.

    When your daughter sees you trying to find ways to help her have what she wants, she will shift her attitude on this, to one of working with you to find a workable solution. This is the way to work towards handling her - become her facilitator, and avoid being the strict "because I say so" kind of parent. You can still have what you feel is important, but let her have what she wants as long as it really doesn't matter to any great extent, to you.

    Also, regarding clothing that will work for her this way - try op-shops. Cheaper non-stretch fabrics and older clothing (pre-worn and therefore softer) can often give the child more comfort.

    You can always throw over the loose outer stuff so nobody can see the tight things underneath. But at least let the teacher know, so they will understand.

    Summer can be a problem when you have a child wearing layers. That's when you have to be inventive with fabric types.

  16. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I hadn't stopped to think about that aspect of the elastic bandages, Marg. Thanks for mentioning it.
  17. Mamaof5

    Mamaof5 Guest

    I concur with sensory sensitivities. Have you tried a weighted vest. My 4 year old has sensory seeking issues and a weighted vest does wonders for her. They're a little tough on the price mind you but it's a good investment. Maybe a therapy office near you can lend you one for a week or two and see how it goes? If it works you can buy them online from therapy sites.
  18. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    If you're handy with a sewing machine (and I don't think you have to be TOO handy) you could make this yourself.

    We bought difficult child 3's weighted vest, the seller was recommended to us by local hospital Occupational Therapists but it turned out to be a lovely lady who makes them herself, at home. It was beautifully made, in a colour we chose (to match difficult child 3's school uniform). When I saw it, I realised I could have made it myself, although filling those sandbags would have been a little bit fiddly - but you do it by making them first, long and narrow. Only wide enough to fit in two fingers, and too long for your finger to reach the bottom. Then you sew it up until only the top opening is left, then get a kitchen funnel and fill it with sand until the bag weighs 200 g. Then stitch shut the top. The bags were made from unbleached calico, the weight written on each bag with felt pen. The vest was made like a fairly ordinary vest, a little on the large side (to allow for some growth - it doesn't have to be tight, because the weights make it feel like it's tight). You then firmly stitch on another band around the vest, on the inside (another reason to make the vest larger) and stitch the long, narrow pockets here. Make sure they are large enough to easily slide in the weighted bags. Because of the stresses involved, it needs to be made from fairly tough material (a soft denim is good; canvas or calico works well too) and double-stitched at the ends of each seam, reinforced like stitching on a pair of jeans.

    If you make it right, allow for about 6 to 8 pockets lying vertically around the body of the vest, and make 8 bags. You don't have to use all the bags, but make sure the bags are arranged around the body evenly so the vest hangs evenly. The bags you make - make them strong and make them so you never need to refill them. As the child grows and needs a bigger vest, make the pockets the same size and use the same bags. Also if you make a weighted blanket, make the pockets the same size so you can use the same bags.

    Some years ago I decided to make curtains for my sunroom, using calico. I bought a whole bolt of cloth and we finally finished it up last year when husband used the last of it to make a pudding cloth. I'm probably going to have to go buy myself more calico. Or maybe I'll get some denim this time! as for sand - we have plenty of it here. I go to the beach and grab a supply, then sift it into a bucket so I can get rid of small twigs, etc. Once I've got my sifted bucket, I can use it for all sorts of projects. But some bags don't use sand, they use wheat or rice. Whichever you use - find something pourable and fairly dense. Make sure you sew the bags tightly so they won't leak - no loose tangs, but instead everything folded over and sewn down, so little fingers won't tug at seams and make the fabric tear. Because that's another thing about these kids, certainly something i found with difficult child 3 - he will worry at a small hole or imperfection (in clothing or in his skin) and by the end of the day the hole will be huge. He also would chew the neckline or hemline of his clothing. Bleah! But because of the weight in the vest, it hangs lower on the body and is harder for the kid to chew.

    I hope this can help.

  19. lizbethbee

    lizbethbee New Member

    I am so glad I found this post. We have been having trouble getting our 3 yr. old daughter dressed lately. All she ever wants to wear are tight leotards, one-piece bathing suits, leggings, tights, and biker shorts. Everything has to be skin tight for her to feel comfortable. She will get so distressed and throw tantrums if I try to choose her clothes for her. She only likes a handful of items in her wardrobe. It's so stressful. I have gotten so upset with her for acting the way she does. I used google to see if anyone else out there was having the same issues. I thank God I found this site. Everything makes sense now and I understand why she has been acting this way, and that it isn't her fault. Thank you to everyone who posted. I appreciate it so much. :)
  20. Liahona

    Liahona Guest

    Hi. Why don't you start a new post and introduce yourself. We'd love to meet you.