Adapting Dressing Skills

We have blogged about dressing skills and teaching dressing skills but some children, for example those with fine motor difficulties will find learning the skills needed for independent dressing more difficult. The simple solution is to wear simple clothes for example t-shirts, sweatshirts and trousers / shorts / skirts with elasticated waist bands. Where this is not possible (for example with uniforms or clothes for more formal occasions) adapting clothes may be a solution worth considering.

Here are some ideas for adapting clothing to avoid buttons and other tricky fastenings:

  • buttons can be sewn onto the buttonhole side of the garment and then velcro sewn down the insides of the garment to avoid doing up buttons (a similar system can be used for buttons on trousers / shorts or skirts if elasticated waistbands are not possible)
  • ties can be adapted with an elastic join to enable them to be slipped easily over the head
  • zips with small pull tabs can be also be extended with cord or a wikkistix to make them easier to grasp

There are also adaptive aids to help dressing:

  • sock or tights aids and long handed shoe horns can be useful where a child cannot reach their feet or where bending is painful or button hooks which can make doing up buttons easier
  • a shoe mat can help enable a child to orientate their shoes correctly
  • pick up sticks and dressing sticks can also help to manipulate clothing but each child will need to devise their own techniques with the aids available

Larger pieces of equipment to assist with dressing include changing benches which the child sits astride with feet on the floor possibly with a helper sitting behind to offer extra stability, ladderback chairs which give scope for different sitting and standing positions and full length mirrors for poor self awareness / perceptual problems.


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