Does Your Neurodivergent Kid Hate Their Clothing? This 11-Year-Old Boy Just Came Up With A Genius Solution

Max, who has autism and ADHD, would experience meltdowns as a result of uncomfortable clothing. So he did something about it.
Max Palfrey (second from the right) with his dad Matt (right), his brother and mum Lauren (left).
Penguin PR
Max Palfrey (second from the right) with his dad Matt (right), his brother and mum Lauren (left).

Max Palfrey was five years old when he was first diagnosed as autistic with pathological demand avoidance (PDA). At seven, he discovered he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), too.

The youngster, who is highly sensitive to certain materials, would come home from school and have meltdowns, desperately trying to tear his uniform from his body.

A lot of the time he would wear his pyjamas. The lack of comfy clothes available to him meant there were even times he couldn’t leave the house because he was so over-stimulated from the thought of wearing something scratchy.

Now homeschooled and 11 years old, Max is using his experience to help others by creating his own super-soft, label-free clothing line for children who are neurodivergent.

The material is 93% modal, a semi-synthetic fabric that is made from beech tree pulp, and 7% elastane, with the seams encased on the inside. Meanwhile the washing and care instructions are on a sticker that can be peeled off to stop the need for irritating labels.

His t-shirts also have Pop-Its – popular fidget toys often used by neurodivergent people to help them sooth and self-regulate – sewn into the seams, where the arms naturally fall, so they can be used as a calming technique without it being obvious.

Max said: “They help me as I find the Pop-Its are calming and they help to regulate me. I have something that I can fidget with, and I can do it without anyone knowing.

“My goal is to help more children like me and [their] families.”

Max’s dad Matt, who has helped the 11-year-old set up the clothing business, called Comfa, said: “It blows us away seeing how passionate Max is about helping others and taking his own struggles and turning them into something positive.

“He is so determined to make a success of things and righting the wrongs he sees in the world. He’s like a younger Greta Thunberg. We are so proud of him.”

Max wearing one of his creations, alongside his dad Matt
Penguin PR
Max wearing one of his creations, alongside his dad Matt

Before starting the business, Max and his family carried out market research with other families of neurodivergent children and were overwhelmed with the response they received.

They found that, like Max, children needed clothes that were soft and comfortable. Polyester material, seams and labels in particular were found to be most irritable.

Max’s mum Lauren said: “We were quite emotional with having so many responses. We know how isolating and scary the whole situation can be when your child is screaming and trying to pull their clothes off.

“Often schools don’t understand that when it comes to the uniform, and we found that Max would come home and have a meltdown as he had masked all day. Home is a safe space where he could let his emotions out.”

Matt added that specialist sensory clothing can be expensive, so they have kept it as cost effective as possible, with prices starting at £20.

Parents wanting to test that the material is right for their child can also get a free sample beforehand, something the dad-of-two felt was important as different children can have different sensory requirements.

The t-shirts are available to pre-order online and the family hopes to tackle school uniform next – as Matt says: “Imagine how much having a built in Pop-It would help kids who struggle to focus at school?” – in addition to creating long-sleeved tops, jumpers and trousers.

“We really hope that Comfa will be a success and that we are able to help so many people. Every other sensory clothing company we’ve looked at has been created by the adult,” Matt said.

“That’s why it’s so important to us that Comfa is Max’s baby. He’s been involved in every step of the way and every decision; it wouldn’t exist without him.”