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Autistic children help company design first sensory onesie

They were asked which fabrics they preferred for softness, warmth and comfort and what they would find uncomfortable.

21st March 2017

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Ashington


A Northumberland company is following in the footsteps of M&S by creating clothing suitable for children on the autism spectrum.

Last year the high-street giant worked with the National Autistic Society to produce an Easy Dressing school uniform. Now the charity has teamed up with The All-in-One Company, of Ashington, which, with the help of local autistic children, has produced The Sensory Onesie.

Daphne, Kate Dawson and Grace. © The All-in-One Company

“An extra aspect of autism, which isn’t in the diagnostic criteria, is the sensory element – and it’s very apparent,” said Helen Sutherland, the mother of one of the children. “It can be smell, it can be taste, it can be texture, but – generally, definitely – it can be touch.” Helen, from Belford, chairs the North Northumberland branch of the National Autistic Society and was asked by the charity to help The All-in-One Company’s designers. 

Inclusive design

Autistic children find the traditional design of onesies uncomfortable. Helen’s daughter, nine-year-old Daphne has two, but never wears them. She also finds leggings too tight and dresses instead in boys’ trousers because they are much baggier. “We have to choose clothes so carefully. Children don’t like labels because they find them really scratchy. They’re hypersensitive to seams and materials. Tight cuffs irritate them. They don’t like press studs as opposed to zips,” said Helen.

Lynn Brown, head cutter at The All-in-One Company with Grace and Daphne. © The All-in-One Company

Daphne, her friend Grace – who’s also nine – and other children with autism visited The All-in-One Company’s factory to help its team develop a onesie which would be suitable for them. They were asked which fabrics they preferred for softness, warmth and comfort and what they would find uncomfortable.

World Autism Awareness Week

It is estimated that more than one in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and in the UK there are around 700,000 people affected by this lifelong developmental disability. World Autism Awareness Week takes place later this month and raising money by wearing onesies on Onesie Wednesday has been a prominent feature in previous years.

“We’ve always supported the National Autistic Society because of that, but we wanted to take it further,” said Kate Dawson, who set up the multi-award winning The All-in-One Company in 2008, after she was unable to find an appropriate sleepsuit for her daughter.

(from left) Lynn Brown and Kate Dawson from The-All-in-One Company, Joshua and Donna Swan. © The All-in-One Company

“The children all told me what they wanted on their onesies and having the ability to choose not to have a hood or feet or to have the feet detachable was a huge revelation. They loved the idea of creating their own and making it just as they wanted,” she said.


“When given their first Sensory Onesie to try all three children loved them and didn’t want to take them off to go home. We are over the moon to have been able to help the National Autistic Society and children and adults affected by autism, making their lives a little bit more comfortable and snuggletastic,” Ms Dawson said.

After its successful trial The Sensory Onesie is now for sale through The All-in-One Company’s website, where children and adults can create their own design and choose whether or not they want a hood, feet, pockets and even ears or tails. The company will send a fabric swatch sample pack so they can decide which material – soft fleece, sweatshirt, cotton t-shirt, organic cotton and bamboo towelling – feels most comfortable.

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