Darius' Story (& Soft Clothing Dress Clothes Giveaway)

In case you haven’t heard, which would probably mean you are overwhelmed at home and don’t have time to read the news, there is a new company called Soft Clothing which has begun developing and producing sensory-friendly clothing for special kiddos. I interviewed the co-founder Jessica Ralli last year here on HLW3B, and Soft Clothing gave away free t-shirts. Now, they are back to give away even more great clothes – this time one of their dressy looks for a boy and one for a girl. Just in time for Easter!

But I didn’t think I should interview Jessica again – that seemed like it would be overkill, right? So I had to come up with another idea. And sure enough, the inspiration came to me – from Jessica herself.

Jessica and Soft Clothing strongly support many different charities (all of which can be viewed here) and she has a special place in her heart for children with sensory issues at school. After all, she was a special education teacher before she launched Soft.

I was recently telling her about some of the kids in my son Matthew’s Developmental Preschool class that have sensory issues. Ok, I don’t *know* that they have sensory issues, but wearing your Pajamas to school inside out every day sure is a hint, don’t you think?

What impressed me the most is that Jessica jumped on board to donate clothes to these kids – across the country in a public school that will give her no press and no advertising. Why does she do this? In her words, “I worked for two years in a special needs daycare in the basement of a housing project--and the kids had a lot of sensory issues--it's part of where the inspiration for Soft comes from so I am always, and will always be looking for opportunities to help in this way.”

It was then I realized that I didn’t need to know more about the clothes or about Jessica; I am already impressed by those. Now, I need to know more about the kids who are benefiting from them.

I’d like to introduce you to Darius and his mom Kathleen.

Welcome Kathleen to HLW3B – so great to meet another family like mine! Can you take a minute to tell us about your family and the kinds of sensory struggles Darius has?

Hi and thanks so much for getting to know us! We are also a 3 boy family!

Darius is my oldest and has been expressing his sensitivity to clothing since pretty much birth. He was frequently uncomfortable even as an infant and preferred to wrapped in loose blankets or the softest of sleepers. As he grew, he was adamant about picking out his own clothes and removing all labels and trying to find the most seamless socks out there. I knew instinctively his problems were severe and tried my best to accommodate his comfort.

As the years progressed, his ability to tolerate clothing became more and more restrictive until he wound up with what became know as “the uniform”: loose fitting pajama bottoms in thin flannel or slinky material, usually found in the ladies lingerie department and altered to accommodate his tiny waist and height, but left billowy throughout the leg. The top would be the most washed and worn softest cotton t-shirt belonging to my husband, worn inside out. These beauties frequently feature under-arm discoloration, stains and a hole or two for good measure!

Of course, all parents think that their child is the most attractive child in the world and I am no different. So you can imagine how difficult it was for me to get over feeling judged by other parents when I would take this handsome young boy out looking like a homeless bum in the streets.

Darius also has severely sensitive hair, and finds haircuts, shampooing and brushing almost intolerable. It was not easy to avoid the glares from those who thought I didn’t take care of my son, when in truth, I was doing the best I could as a parent to make my son as comfortable as possible. My other 2 sons do not experience any sensitivity issues at all beyond the occasional itchy tag, and the contrast in their appearance was often dramatic.

So many of my readers can relate to morning clothing battles! What was it like trying to get Darius ready in the morning before Soft Clothing? What would he wear?

Oh boy! Well, let’s put it this way-our local public school has uniforms.

I tried desperately to find something that work for him, but nothing did. Kindergarten was non-uniform, so that went ok, but first grade also coincided with his ADHD diagnosis and reading delays.

In all its genius, the school district decided to put my highly verbal, extremely hyper son in the English as a Second Language classroom. It’s kind of a no-brainer that “behavioral problem” would ensue.

Darius lasted all of 22 days there, ending with us engaging in a law suit against our school district and Darius becoming a home schooler. Home schoolers can wear whatever they want, so that’s a pretty good example of the severity of issues he was going through and how we managed to dodge that particular bullet!

Hunting non-stop for the ‘right’ clothes is exhausting! How did finding Soft Clothing change your life – and Darius’?

Can you say revolutionize? I spent countless dollars on clothing before Soft trying to find things he could tolerate. I would often buy whole lots of used clothes on Ebay (already broken-in for you !) just to be able to utilize one pair of slip-on pants or a well-worn t-shirt.

At holiday time when I would take the kids for pictures with Santa or the Easter Bunny, we would have to do a reconnaissance mission to see which malls had the Santa set up as close as possible to a bathroom, so we could slip in and change into an uncomfortable outfit and take the picture, rush immediately back to the bathroom to get back into the “uniform” and pick up the picture.

This is no longer an issue since I am proud to have my son photographed in Soft Clothes! I only have to worry about which mall has the Easter bunny and Sephora this year. : )

What do you want other families with sensory-sensitive kids to know about Soft Clothing?

Run, do not walk to softclothing.net and place your order! Everyone is feeling the pinch of this economy, but you cannot put a price on your child’s comfort. It changes the whole experience of their day. I liken it to a woman wearing high, pointy heels. By the end of the day in those shoes, Johnny Depp could be professing his undying to love to you, but all you will be thinking about are how badly your feet hurt and when can you take the dang shoes off!! That is how these kids spend their days, thinking about the discomfort. Try to build a new wardrobe slowly, one item at a time and see what a difference it make. I hope you will give Soft a chance! Thank you so much for reading our story!

Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your family and how Soft Clothing has made a big difference for Darius!


Before I get to the free part -- isn't Darius adorable!? I love the 'before' and 'after' shots -- especially the yellow crocs!

OK, Jessica has generously agreed to give a free outfit to both a girl and a boy. Please be sure to tell me in your comment which outfit you'd want (a soft dress for the girl, and a pair of pants with a tie t-shirt for a boy).

Here is how you can win:

1. You will need to follow this blog (publicly through Google located on the top of the right navigation) and

2. Answer the following question as a comment to this post (click on the word comment below my signature):

"How will having Soft dress clothes make special occassions better/different for your family?"

Once you have joined and answered, you are officially entered. As Nick would say, "Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy." The contest will run from Thursday 03/18/10 to Thursday 03/25/10 and will end at 7pm PST.

Jessica will pick her favorite answer for both a boy and a girl. I will post the winners here no later than Friday 03/26/10. You will have until Sunday 03/28/10 to respond with your address (email me directly at hartleys@steinerigroup.com) or we will choose an alternate winner.

That's it--thanks again to Kathleen and Jessica!


Beth said...

I already won a Soft giveaway on another blog so please don't enter me in the contest, but I wanted to say that the interview just brought tears to my eyes. I can so relate to all of it - the judgment from others, the school not understanding, spending so much money on clothes that rarely work...it's so nice to hear from others going through the same thing. Darius looks so great in his Soft clothes!


Megan said...

My youngest child has sensory issues too, and talk about clothing issues!! She has got to be THE pickiest child when it comes to what she will wear. She hated jeans for the longest time. Now she will wear them, but there is still a whole lot of other things she won't. If these clothes would give us one less battle in the morning, so we could get to school on time, that would be wonderful!

Anonymous said...

I have 3 children with SPD. But the one that has the most trouble with clothes would be my 5 year old Jordan. He wears his worn out, too small, hole ridden STAR WARS jammies almost every day. Like Darius' mom we have 3 children and Jordan is the one that looks neglected ALWAYS. He can't stand haircuts so his hair can look pretty rough. And he will only wear elastic pants b/c he can't do buttons or snaps very well. He also likes the tight feeling of the elastic I think. His 2 pairs of pants are high waters b/c he is hooked on the way they feel and can't seem to find any that feel the same as those. Most shirts feel "bumpy". He his quite hard to handle when it comes to church on Sunday mornings. If I could find clothes that were going to feel great for him that would make his and my life so much better. I think I would also by 20of each color and size LOL! Thanks!

Brandi said...

I just wanted to say that clothing issues are one of the hardest ones to deal with IMO. Andy won't wear anything with a zipper or button...only elastic waist for him. Not too tight, not too loose. No jeans or fabric that is too stiff. Winter jammies have to be fleece with footies. Now that he's older those are almost impossible to find in his size. Add that to the issue of him being sooooo skinny from his food issues, and it's almost impossible to buy him clothes!!! But, I've learned there isn't a point to buying the other stuff b/c he won't wear it and it's a waste of money. If I find something that works, I buy it in every color. I'm so glad to know there are other options out there now for "sensational" kiddos like Andy. So thank you for another "safe" clothing option!

Our Family's Spot said...

"How will having Soft dress clothes make special occassions better/different for your family?"

Well, my son won't randomly take off his pants as soon as we enter the front door . . . regardless of who is in the house! =0) He also won't decide that pants are "icky" and proceed to tell everyone who smiles at him in public. Furthermore, he won't have a complete meltdown every time he needs to get dressed. =0)

I think the boy's shirt is adorable!!! I also love the pants. We were looking into purchasing new pants and shorts here soon (he hates all the ones we currently have). Thanks for the contest and for sharing!!

Kelly (Isaiah's Mommy)

Anonymous said...

what a wonderful article - thank you!!

staceyacton said...

I am so glad I found your blog! I was searching through Sensory Planet on Facebook looking for the Soft Clothing site information I had seen a few weeks ago. Found the site and a link to your blog. How is it that I missed this before?! I have a lot of catching up to do!

Loved Darius' story, our Emma is a female version of this little guy! Only with a little longer hair that she likes to occasionally cut herself :~) Please tell me Soft clothing is working on a line of jackets for our kiddos!
To give you an honest answer to your question, clothes are not at all an issue for her - it's my problem (and the rest of the word). If it were up to her she would absolutely NOT wear them and that would just save us all so much grief :~) Alas, even though we do live in California, she is now five and a half and I must insist on leaving the house covered. Not so much to save myself from parental judgment (far too late for that!) but I think when she is older and sees pictures of herself she might wonder why we never bothered to dress her or comb her hair. Hopefully I can play off the the hair as a windy day :~)
Thanks again for the blog!

oreillyfam said...

I can't imagine not having to cut out the tags of my son's clothes. No clothing worries = good times people!

Shannon Burkert Sullivan said...

I hope to have some soft clothing so that when we go to Walt Disney World, my boys can look "dressed up" when we meet the princesses. Last time, the best we could muster was a sleeveless Celtics jersey, because of tactile defensiveness.
Hope these shirt and tie combos do a princess proud!

Barb Dittrich said...

My little miss Sophie is the sensory princess of this house. If we won this clothing, it would depopulate the floor of her bedroom from all the clothing she puts on then rips off because it doesn't feel "just right". Ugh! Only recently has she agreed that she was willing to try wearing a dress. I can't imagine how positively adorable she would look in a Soft Clothing dress for Easter! Now THAT would be a holiday to remember!

K D said...

I can totally relate to the story and the comments above. The day I ironed patches to the holes on my son's knees - he gave me a 30 minutes lecture once he got home about how I had ruined his day and his pants!! He only wears crocs but because of school policy he must wear tennis shoes to gym on Thursdays and I can always count on that to be a "bad" school day with many "couldn't focus" comments. He will only wear elastic waisted pants and his father doesn't understand why he doesn't like to get dressed up for special occasions or photos.

Nancy Peske said...

Don't enter me--I have some freebies from the company already & want some other person to be able to experience them. Like buttah! I'm telling you, those shirts are soft like buttah! And the teachers thought my son's tie shirt was really cute. :)

I do have to say my son's tactile sensitivities got better after we added flax seed oil to his diet but oh, those toddler years--it was hard getting the right clothes. Shoes were the worst.


Lucille said...

I just had to show my daughter the photo of Darius! They share the exact same uniform down to the Crocs! Her face just lit up knowing that there are other kids out there as sensitive as herself. ~sniff~

We have also become homeschoolers. Partially because of 5 months of the hell of getting ready for school and partially because of the tantrums after a day of over stimulation.

Pants are our huge hurdle. She is 7 now and hasn't worn anything but pull on knit pants since she was 5. She refused to wear jeans after age 3. She currently has 3 pairs of PJ pants she deems acceptable. Since she loves to climb trees and romp around on all fours outside, I have had to patch 2 of them.

Attempting to find new clothing was hilarious. I think the whole thrift store turned to watch as she hollered, "No WAY!" and then whipped the offending clothing item out under the dressing room door. I don't even try to dress her up on special occasions. Anything would be nicer for family pictures than her sap-stained, fleece-patched pj pants!