Children are a bundle of oddities. They do all manner of different things that are an absolute mystery to everyone but themselves, and there are few better examples of that than children who choose to wear only one sock.
Strange? Yes. Oddly specific? Absolutely. But whether it’s a simple quirk or a sign of something more, there are any number of reasons why your child might choose to only wear one sock. The nursery rhyme “Diddle, Diddle Dumpling, My Son John” tells of a child going to bed with “One shoe off, and the other shoe on” – an odd inclusion in an equally-nonsensical song dating back to London dumpling sellers in the late 18th century. There’s no clear reason why John in the poem goes to bed while wearing only one shoe, just as there’s no clear reason for children wearing only one sock.
Still, just because it’s an inexplicable idiosyncrasy doesn’t mean it’s an empty one, so let’s take a closer look at a few potential reasons why your child goes around rocking one sock.
Strange as it may seem, some kids may wear a single sock simply because they prefer it. Maybe they don’t care for socks and like to go barefoot, but you force them to wear socks, and so this is an odd form of compromise or rebellion on their part.
Even that, however, is perhaps trying to give children’s preferences a greater sense of structure. Sometimes children have quirks of habit, and that’s okay. We live in a time where every little personality quirk is scrutinized as a sign of something else. Every sign of individuality is immediately feared as a sign of some “personality disorder” and that’s simply not true. Thinking that way would have robbed us of child savants and eccentrics such as Mozart.
While we’ll touch on other potential reasons for children wearing only one sock in a moment, it’s important to recognize the value of letting children have their quirks. As long as your child doesn’t react too negatively to wearing both socks or the feeling of socks against their feet, you and they may look back on their “One Sock Phase” as the silly, funny time it was.
On the other hand, if your children do have an extreme negative reaction to socks, there may be more than just personality quirks at play. Extra sensory sensitivity can cause children to flinch at the tiniest touch. If that sounds strange to you, consider how annoying it is to wear clothes that are too hot, too cold, too itchy, or any number of other inconveniences over a lack of comfort – and now imagine them causing you unimaginable pain. For those with extra sensory sensitivity issues, this is precisely what feeling the touch of clothing against their skin can be like. What feels soft and normal to us can feel torturous and agonizing to them.
Socks and Autism
Closely related to sensory sensitivity is autism. The precise name for autism-linked sensory sensitivity is Sensory Processing Disorder.
To be clear, just because your child doesn’t like wearing socks or only wears one does not mean that they have autism which, as a condition, is a lot more complicated than simply “having it” or not. There is a whole Autism Spectrum, and your child may have some symptoms and not others or be far more visceral or mild compared to other children. Nevertheless, there is some evidence to suggest that sensory sensitivity is linked to autism, including cases where that’s connected to sock-wearing preferences. Extreme particularity about patterns and sensory sensitivity are both signs of autism which, taken together, may lead to your child being very particular about only wearing one sock, wearing no socks, or only wanting to wear some socks in some fashion.
We have an article about spotting the early signs of autism if you are worried.
What You Can Do About it?
If you have a child who eschews socks due to sensory sensitivity or SPD autism, there are many ways to help them deal with it.
Above all, you need to be understanding. Don’t try and force children with these conditions to wear two socks, or any clothes they may not want to wear for that matter. Not only will this lead to fruitless screaming and fighting, it may genuinely be painful to them, and you don’t want to hurt them.
Instead, you want to be understanding. Empathy and patience can go a long way when working with autistic children, and this is no exception.
Instead of forcing them to get dressed quickly, allow them to take their time. Again, the more you force things, the worse they tend to be with autistic children.
Instead, you want them to feel as comfortable and in control as possible. This can take the form of giving them choices, which in turn can mean, yes, living with the strangeness of their one sock habit for a while. Giving them the option can give you an advantage if you ever want them to wear other clothes and shoes which, you know, might be a bit important if you ever intend on going out of the house with them.
One of the best things you can do to try and alleviate your child’s pain or mental frustration about socks is to look for seamless socks. Seams are one of the most bothersome elements for some autistic children with conditions like SPD, so eliminating these can make the socks much more comfortable to wear.
Finally, while it’s not a reason children themselves wear one sock, it’s worth noting that there is at least one movement with a definite reason for that odd sartorial choice – The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s #RockOneSock Campaign honors children who have gone missing.
Our children do all manner of different strange things, and wearing one sock may just be one of them. It may also be a sign of autism and SPD. Either way, you need to show your child love and give them your patience while they work this “one sock thing” out.