Undressing is learned before dressing. Start with undressing, as this is usually easier than dressing, undressing before bed and helping them put on pyjamas is a good time to start as you have more time than in the morning.
Practice dressing skills at home when there is plenty of time to complete the activity.
Sit next to, in front of, or directly behind your child during activity and guide them through the task. Describe what you are doing, mentioning body and clothing parts – 'now put your left arm into the shirt sleeve'.
As your child begins to anticipate the next step, allow time for him/her to try and help in the process, make allowances for mistakes.
Show how pleased you are with your child no matter how much/little they are able to do.
Organise drawers and put a picture label, if necessary, in front to enable the child to choose their own clothes.
Make sure you and your child are comfortable before you start, with your child positioned and balanced well, working on a bed, floor, chair etc. Find what is best for you both. If the child has balance difficulties, try dressing sitting down. Make sure the child is in a stable position; try sitting against a wall, some children may sit better in a corner where both walls give added support.
Make sure that there is a label, tag at the back of the clothes (if your child is able to tolerate having these in clothing). This gives your child a starting point. Tell them this always goes at the back.
Play with dolls or teddy bears that require to be dressed to practise skills.
At first, use larger sizes of clothing to practise with (older brother's/ sister's or mum's or dad's). These are easier to get into/out of.
Use items that have a pattern/picture on the front as a guide.
Use front fastenings. Large buttons are easier to work with.
Sew cuff buttons on with shearing elastic so that the cuff will stretch when pushing arm through.
Work through the sequence of undressing/dressing, i.e. the order that you do things, and stick to this. A dressing chart with pictures may assist to sequence the activity.
It may be useful to always put the same side in clothing first and stick to this.
When removing items such as underwear, tights, shorts, skirts etc it may be easier to balance if holding onto something with one hand, e.g. chair back, or bed.
Make sure clothing is loose enough for the child to pull up over their bottom, i.e. use elastic waistbands (progress to fasteners as their skills improve.)
Start with larger size socks (for practise) and progress to own size.
On lace-up shoes, open them very wide and teach your child to look for the tongue and to pull it right up before starting.
Before putting shoes on feet, practise lacing them up (or make a lacing card).
If you child continues to have difficulties managing buttons/fasteners, these may be replaced with Velcro.
Practise buttons and fastenings on mum and dad's shirts and cardigans as part of floor play.
A Practical Approach at Home for Parents and Carers: Autism Spectrum Disorders Children with Disabilities Team Occupational Therapy Falkirk Council www.falkirk.gov.uk/cwd
Is it Sensory or is it Behaviour: Behaviour Problem Identification, Assessment, and Intervention by Carolyn Murray-Slutsky and Betty, A. Paris.
Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske.