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How can I get my 4 year old to wear his school uniform?

(26 Posts)
portermum Thu 23-Jul-15 16:10:59

My ds is 4 and is starting school in September. We have had some behavioural issues with him in the past and he will be soon undergoing assessment to see if he may have a social communication disorder. One of his 'things' is about clothing - he hates any new clothing at all (he had a 30 minute flip out yesterday about me suggesting he wear a new pair of pants!). He is just not going to wear his school uniform. We have already bought it but he still currently refuses to even look at it or touch it, I gave him some of his soon to be school socks to wear this morning (without calling them that) and they got hidden somewhere in the house! I can't work out if he has sensory issues, if he is scared of new things, or if he is just stubborn! I have gotten him involved in doing washing/ drying/ tidying away his clothes but with the uniform it is not helping yet. I have spoken to his school, they have suggested doing some trial runs before his start date - but I know that that is just not going to work. I don't think I have the physical/ mental to strength to hold him down to force the clothes on which is what will end up happening- even on a trial run. He is a very sensitive child, I hate the idea of his first few days/ weeks at school to be defined by this issue. PLease, has anyone else had to deal with anything like this - what did you do? I just don't know where to start...

QueenOfNothing Thu 23-Jul-15 16:19:47

Send him in his normal clothes.

He'll either decide to wear uniform once he sees anyone else, or (my guess is) continue to refuse.

Then school can decide how much of a big deal they want to make of it. (Send his uniform in in a bag for them....)

This doesn't sound like being naughty to me. You say he's being assessed for SCD, but isn't that just another name for ASD? This sounds like 'within the range of normal ASD' behaviour.

He's probably going to refuse to do a lot of things at school, so school are going to have to learn how to handle him...... Uniform is trivial compared to behaving in class and doing the work he's asked to. School will have to learn how to get him to do both of those things.

(Sorry if you think this is negative. It's meant to be practical, not negative)

portermum Thu 23-Jul-15 16:53:18

Think you are right about the whole ASD/SCD thing, I am possibly still in denial about it all - but that's a whole new thread!
I also think you're right that I would have to send him in his normal clothes - the battle I would have to get him into uniform would not be beneficial to anyone and certainly not in my ds best interests.... I just hope the school will understand (I think they will but I clearly can't say for sure.). Seeing his peers in uniform would not a blind bit of difference to my ds. I guess I feel sad that from day dot he will be singled out as being different....

SoupDragon Thu 23-Jul-15 16:57:09

Presumably he does wear new clothing at some point though? How does he eventually accept clothing when he has to have new things?

Is there some way of making them not new? Can you wash them loads so they lose their newness and smell and feel like ordinary clothes?

SoupDragon Thu 23-Jul-15 16:58:48

You do have a good 6 weeks to try and find a successful strategy for his, even if you only get him to accept one part of the uniform

CamelHump Thu 23-Jul-15 17:03:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ooerrmissus Thu 23-Jul-15 17:06:34

If you think your DS may have ASD, then this could also be about anxiety. The uniform represents school which is new and scary and he doesn't know what will happen and what to expect. I'd try playing school with him a couple of times, play sitting down for stories, hanging up his coat on the peg, getting his lunch and so on. Explain as much as you can to him, who his teacher is, what the other children are called if you know that. Try reading books about school. The more he knows and sees the less he will worry. At the moment the whole situation is out of his control and the only thing he can control is what he wears. Does that make sense?
Also, if you haven't done it already, cut out any care labels in the clothes and give them a good wash and iron so they don't feel stiff.


Jennifersrabbit Thu 23-Jul-15 17:17:41

I absolutely and totally feel your pain. I have just been discussing with 9 year old DS whether he will wear more than one pair of joggers during the 6 week holiday hmm
DS school was non uniform when he started and took up uniform when he was in Y2. I thought we would never get him into it, and we had some right royal battles initially, but we did and he now accepts that school = uniform. He will only wear one cardigan mind you ...

I would recommend:
Getting the most DS-friendly uniform you can - no buttons? No zips? What does he like to wear now and what's the uniform?
Take all labels out and wash it and wash it and wash it.
Try to stay dead calm and positive about it and give him the message that school=uniform but not that there is going to be a major battle over it. Let him see it around the place - even if he won't look at it!

Morning of school I suggest you start with the assumption that he is wearing it. If he won't, no need to escalate, normal clothes it is and uniform in a bag.

He will realise that uniform is the done thing at school (DS wouldn't give a damn what his peers are wearing but like some children with asd he is quite rule based so he will wear uniform because you have to at school)

Staff will persuade him to put it on and he will do it for them (do not underestimate this, I have learnt to be pragmatic about it and not take it personally!)

He won't wear it and school will be more convinced of the need to make sensible adjustments.

Really hope that helps. Happy to share experiences further.

portermum Thu 23-Jul-15 17:21:37

The school have made DS his own special book with pictures of his classroom and children wearing the uniform, I got him to look at it very briefly yesterday so that is progress! To get him to wear new clothing this summer has been quite an ordeal at times. Even with things that he has picked out himself from shops we have only had a less than 50%success rate, the things he has eventually accepted we have had to force on him the first time, which is clearly not ideal. He nows routinely helps me with washing (including the things he refuses to wear) to see if familiarity with the clothing makes any difference. Playing 'school' is a good idea, it is trying to get the balance of trying to prepare him without making too big a deal of it and making him more anxious!
Does anyone have recommendation on books about school for him to read?

NeedCoffeeToFunction Thu 23-Jul-15 18:26:35

two books that I use with new starters are "starting school " by the Ahlbergs and "Billy and the Big New School " by the Anholts. Hope they help. The book about Billy seems to help anxious children and it does have a happy ending!

Goldmandra Thu 23-Jul-15 19:29:51

I have two DDs with AS and we've been where you are.

I find washing things lots of times before they are even tried on helps.

DD2 has been in school wearing a hoodie a similar colour to the school uniform sweatshirt and black jeans instead of school trousers at times. She now wears cotton school trousers from John Lewis because she can't tolerate the man made fabric they are usually made from.

Part of the issue has been sensory and part of it has been that school is stressful and she can't bear to wear what's associated with it.

My advice would be to wash the uniform lots and leave in lying around his bedroom over the holidays. When he starts, just ask him to get dressed. If he puts on different clothes, just take the uniform in a bag and leave it in school. Ask the staff to encourage him to put it on if you think he can cope with that but not to insist. Maybe they could try asking him to put it on just before home time once he's settled in a bit so he doesn't have to wear it for too long.

Make sure it happens in small manageable steps and make it clear that telling him off or making him miss out for not wearing uniform could be counterproductive or even result in him refusing to attend.

If and when he does decide to put the uniform on, don't make a big thing of it. The teacher should probably just smile and say well done. Any more than that could make him too anxious to do it again. Also make sure they know that wearing it once doesn't mean the problem has gone away. He needs to be able to make progress safely and be allowed to regress on bad days otherwise he might become scared of trying things.

maria543 Thu 23-Jul-15 19:43:59

I have this with my dd, who does not have ASD. She has always been funny about new clothes - wouldn't wear them or even look at them, but the way I got around it sometimes was by having them as 'spares' when we went out on walks or cycle rides or picnics or whatever, and inevitably, she would get covered in mud/water/spill something, so I'd have to say "Oh dear, well you'll have to wear this, because it's all I've got" and once she'd worn it once, it seemed it was accepted!

School was also a bit of a nightmare - it wasn't the uniform as such, but she complained and cried every morning because she didn't like her pants. Then the weather got colder, and she didn't like her tights. It was a daily trauma trying to get her to keep them on. I tried being kind and understanding, and then tried being cross, and tried everything really. Eventually we got through it, and she's 7 now, and it doesn't happen so often, as though she's grown out of it a bit.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I wanted you to know that you are not the only one, and if it's really difficult, the school will be more than understanding. Tell them as soon as you can, and enlist their help.

Cedar03 Fri 24-Jul-15 11:50:47

Splat the cat is a picture book about starting school. Splat is very reluctant, worried and nervous. But he has such a lovely time that the next day he can't wait to go back. It won't help with the uniform idea, though, as he is a cat so doesn't wear one.

Goldmandra Fri 24-Jul-15 14:08:56

Splat the cat is a picture book about starting school. Splat is very reluctant, worried and nervous. But he has such a lovely time that the next day he can't wait to go back. It won't help with the uniform idea, though, as he is a cat so doesn't wear one.

Books like that can be counterproductive for children with ASD who can think very literally. If he goes to school fully expecting to have such a good time that he can't wait to go back and then doesn't (which is highly likely if he has ASD) he could feel more negative about it than if his expectations were realistic.

I would consider contacting the school and asking if the teacher is likely to be in towards the end of the holidays preparing the classroom. If so would he/she be willing for your DS to pop in for half an hour or so to help him acclimatise and maybe to complete a small preparation task like putting toys in boxes, tidying books to enable him to feel more positive on his first day.

LaughingHyena Fri 24-Jul-15 15:21:57

My son has ASD and also had a bit of a thing about new clothes. He can't quite tell us what the issue is with them, I suspect some of it is a sensory thing. New clothes just not feeling/smelling quite right.

What I find works for him is to keep washing the clothes, and put them back in with his clean stuff to put away. (once they are washed a couple of times I tend to just sneak them back into the clean pile). He helps me put his stuff away, so this seems to give him a bit more familiarity with the new bits till they become "his" and he'll start wearing them.

Have the school done anything to help him with the transition. I seem to remember we got a sheet of photos of the teacher, classroom, cloakroom etc. Or you could make your own social story about wearing uniform.

I'd second the idea of seeing if you can pop into school for a quick visit before term starts. We've been offered a visit each year, the first day is usually an inset day. Seem to help.

On the plus side, we've found that now he's accustomed to wearing his uniform it's at least fairly easy. No decisions to make about what he wears to school, plus switching in the next size up is always easy as it doesn't change!

We did give up on the polo shirts though and he now wears a t shirt in the same colour.

portermum Thu 30-Jul-15 21:24:13

LaughingHyena &JennifersRabbitt, that sounds very similar to my son, not able to tell us what the problem is, and we can't quite work it out - we are currently heading rapidly towards a pants crisis! His school have given him a book with pictures in and we went in after school before the end of term.

Out of interest - how did you get your children accustomed to wearing uniform? How long did it take? We have now decided to not push the issue too much, he gets so stressed whenever we bring it up that I think it would be counterproductive. It's lying around the house, and we'll keep washing it, if he wears it on the day then fine, if he doesn't then we'll work out a plan with the school.

Poloshirts are going to be a be a big problem as are the trousers but I am hoping he'll wear grey trousers of a non-school uniform material if necessary.

Goldmandra - I am finding it quite difficult to strike a balance between preparing him for school without overemphasising things or making too much fuss about it.

I think I am also focusing quite alot on the uniform issue, which in the grand scheme of things is actually quite an irrelevance - regardless of whether he has ASD or not, I think there is going to be an awful lot about school that ds is going to find challenging and I can only hope that he'll be able to cope with it (and me too!).

sarararararah Thu 30-Jul-15 21:42:18

One strategy that might work is writing a social story with him in it which explains exactly what is going to happen about school. When I do them for children we use a computer program that adds pictures but you could draw pictures or add pictures yourself on the computer of the uniform, for example. You then read it often without discussing it too much (unless initiated by him) so that he starts to be more accepting of what would happen and why.

For example it might say:
"In September DS is going to be going to (name of school). His teacher will be called ........ She is very nice. She is good at helping people and she likes to make school fun.

At (name of school) all the children wear a school uniform. This is to show they belong to the school. It's also to stop their home clothes from getting messed up. This is what the uniform looks like. Etc etc. I'm sure you get the idea!

The uniform being around the place is another good idea.

With one little boy we used to let him come in with his favourite top (happened to be a Man Utd top) under his school shirt. Might that work as a first step?

sarararararah Thu 30-Jul-15 21:44:16

Sorry, I cross posted with you. I'm sure the school will help you work out a plan if it becomes necessary. Mine certainly would (am a teacher). Good luck! smile

DangerGrouse Thu 30-Jul-15 23:06:41

Watch this weeks 'three day nanny' on 4od.
They have this problem and the nanny solved it. Amazing.

bestguess23 Thu 30-Jul-15 23:17:05

Does he have any slightly older cousins or friends whose parents might be willing to send them over to play in school uniform? My DH had similar issues until well into adulthood. His dm would eventually get him to try things by getting his older brothers and sisters to involve him in dressing up games. Removing the anxiety around the clothes can be a big step.

Binit Thu 30-Jul-15 23:25:43

I'd make sure the top is the most basic polo tshirt and don't bother with the buttons. Wash it until it's soft, stick a sticker of a character he likes on it. Do this twice and have different character stickers on each. Present to him and say we are going to [x place he likes eg zoo] so do you want to wear minion tshirt or bob the builder tshirt.

Once you have one item on him, I'd get him to wear every day for a week then try for another item.

hazeyjane Thu 30-Jul-15 23:26:30

Agree with a lot of things previously said.

Ds started school last year, he is disabled, and has issues about clothes, things that helped us were

Taking photos of his actual uniform and making a dress up doll with them

Getting second hand uniform (softer, more worn in)

Cutting out labels (used a stamp with his name on it to print on the clothes)

Buying soft jogger style shorts/trousers in dark grey (ours were from vertbaudet) - school were ok with this

Not getting him to try on his uniform in the holidays - he would have refused to, and tbh I really though it would be a huge issue, so was fully prepared to turn up at school with him in his own clothes, and uniform in a bag. But to all of our surprise, he did wear it.... we have the problem that he won't take it off when he comes home, he would keep his socks on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year if he could!

Good luck

hazeyjane Thu 30-Jul-15 23:30:48

Oh, we also watched the Wooly and Tig school episode and had a Topsy and Tim go to school book (which the children at the preschool I work at love)

With the children at preschool I played a game wher they had to dress as a superhero, with some of the outfit being school uniform - the final bit of the outfit was a (very cool) spiderman/Thor/iron man mask, or an Elsa/Bell tiara

Is there a superhero he really likes, or ninja turtle? Maybe you could let him have a bit of superhero kit on the first day, as part of his costume (although then you would have the problem of him taking it to school!)

PolterGoose Fri 31-Jul-15 10:52:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hazeyjane Fri 31-Jul-15 15:44:49

Ds wears the smart knit socks too (the ones designed to be worn with splints) they are brilliant, worth the extra money if socks are an issue.
Bought after a recommendation from Polter <waves frantically!>

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