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Forum Why you need NTLS - parents

Undressing in public

3 months 1 day ago #569 by Brimbach
Undressing in public was created by Brimbach
Quite often I hear the panic in parents and teacher voices when they describe a kiddo on the spectrum undressing in public. What is cute in the early years, becomes a huge issue later in life. My question, how can you encourage the kiddo to stay dressed in certain setting without making him feel embarrassed or having a 'no' situation? What is an appropriate age to teach and how do you teach is without too much verbal interaction that might be overwhelming and not helpful? Any creative ideas would be awesome.
I know Rupert has had a similar issue with Rowan and his fascination with belly buttons, and I feel some of his suggestions were helpful. I am just trying to build a tool box for various kids- we know, what works for one, might not be the key to another...Thanks! 

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3 months 4 hours ago #575 by rupert
Replied by rupert on topic Undressing in public
This is a complex question, so it needs an answer that has several different parts. First, know that when kids are trying to undress, it is almost always because of stress. The stress could be sensory: a bad feeling on the skin because of the clothes have synthetic fabrics; but that is usually a fairly easy thing to find out. If it’s not a sensory issue, then it’s probably a stress issue. If it’s about emotional or psychological stress, than the child taking the clothes off, is usually them trying to communicate to you that he/she is stressed about something. So what are you stressed about?

I’ll give you one example: there was a time when Rowans mom really wanted him to go to school and he wasn’t ready to go to school. She insisted that we try anyway. On his first day at school, he took off all his clothes and rolled around on the floor saying: “I don’t want to go to a city school. I want to go to a countryside school.’ He wasn’t that verbal at the time, so this was a really complex sentence. What he was saying was, he being homeschooled at a country place and that was where he wanted to stay. and so him taking of the clothes was a protest and making a point about how stressed he felt, that he might have to do something that he didn’t want to do. And that he knew would be overwhelming for him.

Always ask the question: ”Why is the kid taking off the clothes? Are they responding to some sort of stress and are they trying to communicate to you through this active protest, that they really need something else. And if so what is that thing?” That will be determined by the particular child and the particular context, but usually, it has to do with wanting time in nature and wanting to be allowed to develop in a way that feels authentic to them. And not to be put in a position where they have to feel afraid.
Later on, with Rowan, he always wanted to be naked when he was at home.

The problem was sometimes, other people were there. And sometimes people came to the door. So we had to explain to him that some people found being around an older naked kid tricky. And that there were also people out there, who were excited by kids being naked for the wrong reasons and might hurt them. And than, going to the door naked, might risk running into one of those people because you don’t actually know who is at the door. He totally got it. Because that was such a rational explanation.

So, for a while he wouldn’t go and answer the door, someone else had to. And then he would put on shorts when he answered the door, but he still would want to be naked at home no matter who is there. Then little by little that also changed and when I say little by little, I mean really over the course of about 24 months.

And then suddenly we were at a point where he himself was saying: “O, we have visitors. I need to put shorts on.” It was his idea. We’ve seen this kind of process happen quite a few times a quite a few kids. Where, if you honor the fact that they’re stressed, try to remove those stresses and then from there go to really straightforward explanations, but with no attachment to them taking on your advice in any sort of short term.

Then in a medium term, they generally do and although there are definitely some bumpy moments. You end up with a child that totally knows how to put themselves into a socially appropriate frame and has gotten there through the process of the prefrontal cortex, rather than through coercion, which means that long-term they make more and more decisions from the prefrontal cortex, which of course means they have a much better chance of surviving and thriving.

So I hope that reading this answer, will give you some insight into this or these particular children and the stressors of them responding to and the strategies that you can employ. If you feel that you would like to discuss this further, I need more contextual detail. Please email us again and we will engage in a more specific way, but in the meantime please digest what we said, have a think about it and see what ideas and strategies present itself, based on what Rowan and other children have shown us through this journey.

~ Rupert
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