How to Teach Special Needs Children to Dress Themselves

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How to Teach Special Needs Children to Dress Themselves
Teach Special Needs Children to Dress Themselves

When you teach your children to dress themselves, you end up saving yourself a lot of time and effort when it's time to get them ready. Ordinarily, children can learn to dress themselves completely before they go to first grade, but with children with special needs it may take a little longer. It's important to be patient and to understand your child's limitations.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Reaching equipment

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  1. 1

    Determine if your child is developmentally ready to learn to dress himself. If your child is already helping to dress and undress himself at times, this is a good indicator. Cognitively, your child should be able to understand and follow simple instructions, as well as demonstrate memory skills.

  2. 2

    Enroll your child in occupational therapy. Occupational therapists teach special needs children how to accomplish tasks that are part of everyday life like dressing themselves. If you're already in occupational therapy, discuss dressing with the therapist.

  3. 3

    Make getting dressed a game that's fun for your child. Let your child help pick out her clothes by presenting a couple of options and allowing her to choose. Getting her engaged in the process will motivate her to stick to it.

  4. 4

    Teach the child how to put on each item of clothing, take it off and then let him try it for himself. Praise the child along the way as he accomplishes each task.

  5. 5

    Narrate the process with questions like "do you want to put on your pants next?" or "is it time to put your shirt on?" Children with cognitive disabilities can benefit from being guided in this manner.

  6. 6

    Gradually increase the number of tasks you have your child do in the dressing process until your child is dressing entirely by himself or herself.

  7. 7

    Allow the child enough time to finish dressing properly. It can take more than twice as long as normal for a special needs child to get dressed, so patience is key.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep your child in Velcro shoes if tying shoe laces is too hard.
  • Children with range of motion limitations and other physical impairments may need special reaching equipment to help them get dressed. Talk to an occupational therapist about what you need to buy for your child.
  • Never rush the child to get dressed. Some children who feel rushed can become frustrated and resist learning.
  • Some children who are severely physically limited may never be able to dress themselves entirely. Fastening buttons, zipping zippers, tying shoes laces and other tasks that require fine motor skills may never be achieved.

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