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Ideas to help with dressing/ undressing

  • 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.

    Useful resources
  • A Practical Approach at Home for Parents and Carers: Autism Spectrum Disorders Children with Disabilities Team Occupational Therapy Falkirk Council
  • 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.
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