School uniform policies should be eased as they may adversely affect the learning of children with autism and sensitivities, experts warn.
Leading UK charity, The National Autistic Society and inclusive fashion brand Rare Birds have placed an urgent call to schools.
Children across the country are putting on heavy uniforms for the first time since the summer holidays this week while parts of the UK are sweltering in temperatures of 30 degrees or more.
However, experts have claimed that strict uniform rules could put autistic and sensitive children at a disadvantage because their learning may be disrupted by the sensory impact of uncomfortable clothing.
The National Autistic Society reported that autistic children can experience discomfort and anxiety from wearing school uniforms.
Autistic children may have heightened sensitivities, meaning materials can feel itchy as clothing tags rub the skin, and tight clothing can make them feel enclosed and uncomfortable.
Tianna Cowan, Deputy Head of Relationship Fundraising at the National Autistic Society, said: ‘Every autistic child has individual sensory differences and needs, and some autistic children can experience discomfort and anxiety from wearing school uniforms.
‘This can be extremely overwhelming and lead to children being unable to focus at school due to sensory overload.
‘Schools should consider more relaxed uniform policies, which allow for the reasonable adjustments that autistic pupils need.
‘It’s vital that autistic children, and all children who experience sensory sensitivity, receive the right help and support to be able to thrive at school.’
‘It is not just disabled children and children with sensory issues that may find uniforms difficult; some children with eczema or very sensitive skin also find school uniforms uncomfortable.
What are the signs of autism?
Signs of autism in young children include:
- Not responding to their name
- Avoiding eye contact
- Not smiling when you smile at them
- Getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound
- Repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body
- Not talking as much as other children
- Repeating the same phrases
Signs of autism in older children include:
- Not seeming to understand what others are thinking or feeling
- Finding it hard to say how they feel
- Liking a strict daily routine and getting very upset if it changes
- Having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
- Getting very upset if you ask them to do something
- Finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on their own
- Taking things very literally – for example, they may not understand phrases like ‘break a leg’
Common signs of autism in adults include:
- Finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling
- Getting very anxious about social situations
- Finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own
- Seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to
- Finding it hard to say how you feel
- Taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like ‘break a leg’
- Having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes
Sensory friendly clothing brand, Rare Birds, has recommended schools to replace blazers with jumpers as well as making ties optional to allow shirts to be untucked during lessons.
Clementine Schouteden, Founder of Rare Birds said: ‘School uniform policies should reflect the needs of children and ensure they have the right tools to learn undisrupted.
‘This includes allowing an adaptable, inclusive school uniform policy that aids not inhibits children’s education.
‘Every child has the right to an education, are we really going to let something as simple as what the next generation are wearing during lessons stand in the way of them achieving their dreams?’