Molly Fuller Design

Preparing Your Autistic Teen for Back to School with the Right Supplies and Clothes

Preparing Your Autistic Teen for Back to School with the Right Supplies and Clothes

Nothing says back to school like the overflowing school supply aisles and commercials showing amped-up kids in new jeans and backpacks.The annual ritual to kick off the school year includes getting ready with the right supplies and clothing.

However, for autistic teens, back-to-school shopping is a little more complicated than the supply list sent from school. The main challenge being – find the right clothing.

You need to find clothing for your autistic teen that not only meets their sensory needs but also looks good.

Don’t worry, it’s possible… Keep reading to get some ideas to make back-to-school shopping for clothing and supplies more successful for your autistic teen.

Download free guide to help teens learn self-regulation

Figure Out What Matters To Your Teen When It Comes to Clothing for Autism

This is a step that is frequently missed but can be the difference between an outfit that gets worn and one that stays in the back of the closet.

For teens that are good communicators, simply take time to discuss what clothing they like or need for the upcoming school year. Remember, preferences might change as they develop through the teen years.

If communication isn’t your teen’s strength, think about what their recent preferences or actions may suggest. Even find alternative ways to communicate, such as going through older clothing together and asking your teen to point out favorite textures, styles, or colors.

Keep in mind, some teens care more about their clothing than others. Honor their preferences and include them at a level that makes sense for them. 

What matters most to your teen when it comes to clothing?

  • How it looks.
  • How it feels.
  • Do they prefer a variety of options or duplicates of go-to favorites?
  • At the same time, reflect on how your underlying thoughts as a parent influence the clothing you prefer to buy for your teen.

  • Are you worried about how peers will perceive them?
  • Does your vision for your teen’s appearance differ from their clothing preferences? 
  • Now that you’ve explored preferences, you’re ready to apply this knowledge. 

    Practical Considerations when it Comes to Clothing for Autism

    Clothing selection is even more important for those with autism or sensory processing disorder because clothing interacts with the sensory system. Meaning the sensation given by clothing can directly translate into a good or bad school day.


    This is how the fabric feels against the skin. To someone with tactile sensitivity, rough fabrics might feel extra uncomfortable which leads to distraction in the classroom or irritability with teachers or peers. So soft, breathable fabrics are the name-of-the game when it comes to autistic clothing.

    Seaming or Tags

    If your teen has complained about uncomfortable seams or itchy tags in the past, you’ll want to keep this in mind for back-to-school shopping this year. The good news is from socks to shirts, there are growing options available without tags or bulky seams.

    Extra Features: Compression or Built-in Fidgets

    Good quality autism clothing goes beyond just eliminating distractions or annoyances. It takes advantage of opportunities to use the sensory system to increase focus and attention. 

    Some examples of sensory positive strategies include using compression or incorporating soothing textures a teen can run their finger over to improve self-regulation. 

    Appearance Matters Too! 

    Again, clothing and general appearance will matter to some teens more than others. So take your cues from your teen as to how much personality they like in their clothing.

    Like it or not, there is the element of keeping up with peers to be considered. As a parent, you want your teen to be accepted. And research backs up how positive peer relationships contribute to wellbeing in autistic teens.

    Appearance plays into how teens are perceived by other teens, so individual goals can range from maintaining a basic level of kept appearance to a form of self-expression. 

    Things to consider when it comes to appearance:

  • How often should clothing be worn each week and do you need to provide duplicates so favorites can be washed? 
  • Will clothing be socially acceptable to peers?
  • Is there a specific color or style your teen prefers? 
  • Is a unique look a part of your teen’s style? 
  • There are no right or wrong answers here. The goal is just figuring out how to support your teen with clothing options that work for their style. 

    For example, if your teen has an outfit that expresses their style but irritates their sensory system, consider using layers such as a compression shirt to achieve both goals at once. 

    Preparing Ahead of Time Makes All The Difference

    It’s tempting to save that new outfit until the first day of school. But this might not be a good option for your autistic teen. Instead,  have them wear new outfits before the first day of school.

    This does two things:

    1. It eliminates one new thing from the list of other new things on the first day of school.
    2. It also provides a chance to break in the new clothing. Many clothing items get more comfortable after the first wear or wash. 

    On the topic of preparation, it’s also helpful to set out clothing the night before. Again, this helps eliminate extra decisions during the adjustment back to a school morning routine.

    Important Side Note about Shopping for Clothing for Autism

    If you want back-to-school shopping to be successful, consider how you’re doing your shopping. Many teens with autism find in-store shopping to be overwhelming. Add in the hassle of trying on clothes and you’re setting your clothing mission up for failure. 

    Meaning that instead of your teen focusing on finding clothing to fit their sensory needs, they might start throwing things in the cart to get out of the store as fast as possible.

    Here are some things to keep in mind: 

    • Online Shopping: This has gotten easier than ever. Order a variety of items and then have your teen try them on in the comfort of home. You can return what doesn’t make the cut. 

    • In-Store Shopping Without your Teen: This gives you the ability to feel clothing texture and inspect items for seams or tags. Buy what you think might work and set aside time to try things at home.
    • In-Store Shopping With your Teen: For a more successful shopping trip, target times where the store isn’t as busy. And to reduce overwhelm, limit the number of items you’re looking for in one trip.

    Really, the good news is that there are so many ways to get your school shopping done either in-store or online. It might take some returning, but you’re more likely to end up with clothes your teen actually wears. 

    Clothing for Autism That’s Fashionable and Comfortable

    The ultimate goal is to prepare your teen to learn and have amazing life experiences at school.  And yes, the right clothing and supplies for your autistic teen are part of that.

    And it doesn’t need to feel like this huge, impossible mission to find clothing for your teen that is BOTH functional and fashionable. 

    At Molly Fuller Design, our goal is to remove the overwhelm of finding the right clothing so you can focus on other important elements of life. 

    We get the challenges of finding comfortable and stylish clothing for your autistic teen. It literally impacts every decision we make – from fabric, construction, and look, to easy returns. 

    Whether your teen wears their compression shirt to add a comforting hug under a favorite outfit or as a stylish outer layer– you’ll know they have the sensory gear they need for a successful school year.

    Check out our clothing line today!


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