Well, as far as Josh is concerned that is. If Josh had a choice, he would be naked about 80% of the time. I say 80% because there are times when he is without attire, that he will in fact, find some article of clothing and put it on. Not necessarily the right way (he has been known to put his legs into the sleeves of a shirt and wear it as pants.... ) nor is it always something of his, but he will do it. Most of my male friends smirk when I mention Josh's preference for nudity and tell me that this is not an "autism thing" but just a "guy thing". Point taken, gentlemen. However, I would be willing to bet that with the possible exception of my friend Tyler, none of them were stripping down at almost 12 years old and running naked around their houses in front of their siblings, parents, or anyone who happened to be visiting and I can pretty much guarantee that they are not doing it now, as much as they might wish that they could.
Josh has been at this for years and as you can imagine, this does lead to some issues. To be honest, it's not so much an issue for us that he is naked a lot. Much like the Blue's Clues and the french fries, it's just part of who he is and we are used to it. The fact that he is quite small for his age likely makes it easier, since he still looks like a young child and not like a pre-teen. The issues are primarily that he is not yet fully toilet-trained, and that other people are not used to it like we are. The toileting we have been working on for many, many years. At this point, he will use it, but not consistently. He is much better these days about telling me when he needs to go so his being naked as far as that goes, is not quite as much of an issue as it used to be. But there are still times when that is a problem. When he was younger it was a tremendous issue, as I'm sure you can imagine. So much so that I had to come up with inventive ways to keep him clothed to prevent disasters. Interestingly, shoes were a big part of whether or not he would strip off his clothes. If his shoes were on, his clothes stayed on. If they were off or he could take them off, then the clothes followed. This was the case at school as well. What it led to was my finding shoes that he could not take off (or at least, take off easily) himself, that he would wear. This is actually a tie-in to the next entry which will be devoted entirely to shoes, so remember this! We are talking about many years ago, so what I found were essentially hiking boots - given the lacing, the fact that I could double tie them, and that they came up over his ankles making it impossible for him to slide them off, they were perfect. So this is what he has been wearing... for years. They were very relieved at school since he was no longer stripping there. There was still one problem though. You can't wear shoes 24 hrs a day. So I had to figure out a way to deal with pajamas as he would strip in the middle of the night, leading to a very wet and or messy bed every morning. He couldn't wear 2-piece pajamas (pants/shirt) since there was no way to ensure he would keep those on. What I ended up doing was taking onesie pj's (the ones with the feet), cutting the feet off, and putting them on him backwards so that the zipper would be in the back. This worked well for a while, but he became adept at undoing the zipper anyway. So I added a t-shirt over top, making it that much harder for him to get to the zippers. This did the trick and he wore these footless onesies with t-shirts over top to bed for several years. I'm sure this looked bizarre to anyone who might have seen it, but hey, you do what you need to do.
As I said, he is better about not toileting on the floor these days (though it does still happen sometimes) and he also does not strip in the middle of the night any more. So he is back in regular pj's now. But he sure does like to run around naked during the day. He can take his shoes off now, so the shoes are no longer helpful in that respect. My sister and her family spent Christmas with us this year and she has 2 children of her own, ages 14 and 12. I warned my sister before they got here, to talk to the kids about the fact that they would likely see Josh naked a lot and to try not to be too distressed by it. She did, but I think it's always a shock when you really see it happening. They handled it pretty well, considering. Within a day or so, they got very good at yelling "Aunt Sarah, Josh is naked again!" from wherever they were in the house without too much awkwardness. When we don't have other people around I pretty much let him be on this one. There are only so many times a day I can put his clothes back on before I get to the point where I give up, and I have found that recently, he is better about telling me when he needs to go to the bathroom when he is naked than we he is not. If there's any chance that this will help to finally get the toilet training accomplished then naked it is. I have 2 rules: if he wants to sit down to eat or sit on the couch to watch Blue's Clues, he has to at least be wearing a pull-up, and if he does have an accident on the floor, the pull-up has to go back on.
Given the choice, if he's wearing clothes, he would prefer they belong to someone else. Especially shoes, but watch for that in the next post. He particularly enjoys wearing things in odd ways, or that are too big for him. I'm sure all of this is sensory based for him. No, it's not that clothes bother him. I know that there are a lot of children with autism who are hyper sensitive and don't like clothes because of how they feel. No, Josh takes them off because he likes how it feels to be naked (stop giggling :P ) - it's a much more significant sensory experience than when you are clothed. Ahhh, to be young and completely uninhibited. I do realize that at some point as he gets older this will become much more of a problem if he continues to do it. What we will do about it in that case, I can't tell you. Life with Josh is pretty much learn, adapt, survive, grow, and I'm sure this situation will be no different. For now, if you ever visit and Josh is giggling non-stop and running a lot, it probably means he's naked. You've been prepared.