Something happens during the adolescent years, and suddenly dress and grooming take on a new importance. Most teenagers quickly become fashion “experts,” dismissing their parents’ suggestions. They develop their own sense of style, which identifies them socially amongst their peers. What often happens to special needs kids, however, is that they have no idea how to fit in fashion-wise. They wear whatever Mom dresses them in, and don’t know any better. They stand out as odd-balls, “rejects,” and “losers.”
Calling All Parents!
Parents, this is where you come in. Now pay attention, please! If you send your disabled son to school with high-waisted pants that reach up to his armpits, or your daughter with mismatched clothes and messy hair, you are failing him or her. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but at least I’ve got your attention.) Your teen has no chance, whatsoever, of being accepted by his peers if he stands out so miserably. Looking “right” can help your child avoid bullying.
Now I’m not suggesting that you spend two thousand dollars on a new wardrobe for your kid. I’m on a budget, just like you are. But if you save up and buy just a couple of “cool” outfits, you would be making an amazing investment in your child’s social future. And if you do a little research, you can find reasonably priced stores.
But I don’t know the current teen styles!
Clothing – Get a teen fashion advisor. In fact, I think you should do this even if you think you know the trends. (It’s likely you’re wrong.) Do some looking around and find a teenager who has good fashion-sense. A teen who attends your child’s school would be ideal. If your child doesn’t have a fashion-conscious sibling, contact a niece or nephew, family friend, or peer tutor recommended by the school, etc. (But make sure it’s a socially-accepted teen.) Invite him or her to go out on a shopping trip. Bring your son or daughter along, and have the teen assist you in outfitting him properly. The goal is not to make your child stand out as an over-dressed choir boy, but to “fit in” with what the other kids are wearing.
Haircut – Is your child’s haircut up-to-date with current trends? Or are you putting a bowl over his head and getting out the family razor? Take your child to a trendy salon, and ask a hairdresser for advice. The younger the hairdresser, the more likely it is she’ll know the standard teen hairstyles. You can also watch a few teen T.V. shows, or buy a couple teen magazines and pay close attention to the styles you see.
Hygiene – If your child has dirty ears, greasy hair, or a strange “odor,” she is going to be a target of ridicule. Make sure you teach your child to bathe or shower daily, brush his teeth, use deodorant, use q-tips, and change his underwear. It sounds obvious, but I have observed over the years that some of the students in my son’s special needs classes have looked very unkempt. I have wondered how those kids’ parents could let them face the world that way.
Fortunately for me, my autistic son attends a junior high where uniforms are worn. Phew! That takes a load off. However, I still have to check his zipper, his collar, and remind him about brushing his teeth.
Parents, don’t forget about these crucial aspects of teenage years. Don’t leave your child in a hopeless social predicament. Make sure he or she is clean, neat, and in style!