The National Autistic Society offers advice on autism-friendly schoolwear, by Corinna Laurie, specialist occupational therapist

In August this year M&S launched the first mainstream range of autism-friendly schoolwear. The retailer teamed up with experts from the National Autistic Society to create the Easy Dressing collection, as well as talking to children at the society’s Helen Allison School in Kent.

More than 6,000 people pre-registered for updates on the schoolwear in just five days, suggesting there is a widespread need for schoolwear that takes into account the sensory difficulties that certain fabrics and design can cause children and young people with autism.

“More than one in a hundred people are autistic in the UK – that’s around 120,000 school-age children – and they deserve to have the same choices as everyone else,” says Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society. “When a famous retailer like M&S leads the way like this, we’re sure that others will follow their inspiring example.”

Images asked Corinna Laurie, specialist occupational therapist and author of the National Autistic Society publication ‘Sensory Strategies’, for her advice on what clothes garment decorators can suggest to make getting ready for school less problematic for this group of children.

“Having to conform to a school uniform is often distressing for children with sensory sensitivities, because of how it feels against their skin. Children on the autism spectrum can also have problems with their manual dexterity. So, when advising parents, I suggest they look for garments with three qualities:
1. Clothes without itchy labels and reduced seams
2. Soft fabric with limited starch or other potentially uncomfortable finishes
3. Easy fastenings to reduce time and allow children to dress/undress independently
“All of the above has been taken into account by M&S with its wonderful new range. I am sure this will make the morning routine much easier for parents and their children.”