Otago Polytechnic

Development of children’s therapeutic pressure emitting apparel that addresses sensory integration dysfunction

Tania Allan-Ross


Allan-Ross, T. (2016). Development of children’s therapeutic pressure emitting apparel that addresses sensory integration dysfunction. (A project report submitted to meet the requirements of MDE501 Design-Led Enterprise Project and in partial fulfilment of the Master of Design Enterprise at Otago Polytechnic, Dunedin, New Zealand) [PDF 4.2MB]

The long-term aim of this study is to design and manufacture customised contemporary garments for children with sensory integrative issues arising from the developmental disorder named sensory integration dysfunction (SID). These garments principally aim to aid the integration of tactile (touch) and proprioception (body position) for the wearer. It is foreseen in the near future that a therapeutic garment could be commercially produced that allows the wearer to modify sensation, specifically the experience of deep pressure in order to effect sought internal states of change of a physiological, cognitive or psychological nature. This section of the research study specially focuses on the trialling of the garment’s design with an emphasis on fabrication.

Context: This topic originated from my personal research into the lack of functional, appealing and discreet clothing for children that addresses the need for specific sensory feedback. This report records my research study to date beginning with a focus on understanding sensory integration dysfunction and existing treatments, in particular methods that provide deep pressure. The framework of a single case study for a client (a child who has sensory integration dysfunction) in conjunction with the use of a functional clothing design process, informs the initial development and testing of prototype garments. These were explored and enhanced through collaboration with the case study participant, their family and therapists. My personal interest in a client-centred approach to garment design stems from the experience of running a small made-to-measure apparel business in which a number of my clients had physical disabilities. My clients frequently offered possible garment engineering solutions to their individual clothing problems. I enjoyed this collaborative approach to designing and making. I now have a family member with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Many of his sensory needs relate directly to clothing. Part of their early intervention therapy included the wearing of a weighted vest, which was unappealing on a visual and practical level. It had a very ‘homemade’ aesthetic, was ill-fitting and cumbersome for both the wearer and caregiver to handle. This experience motivated me to question the lack of functional, appealing and inclusive clothing for children needing sensory stimulation input from garments.

Tania Allan Ross' primary supervisor was Sian Griffiths.


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