8+ Tips on How to Help a Special Needs Child Dress Independently
Just like every other life skill, learning to dress independently is something that every child has to do at some point. However, as their parent, this also means that you are going to have to do most of the heavy lifting and teach them the best way to do it.
While teaching any child how to dress independently is hard work, teaching a special needs child how to do it is even harder. You’re going to need to have a lot of patience, understanding, and a bunch of tricks up your sleeve to do it effectively.
The good news, though, is that it can be done. And in this article, we’re going to show you exactly how to do it. Here is how to help your special needs child to dress independently.
1. Pay attention
The key to teaching any child how to dress independently is to be present and attentive. You want to see what they can and can’t do first before you can start gently offering suggestions. When it comes to special needs kids, you also want to demonstrate how to do things the right way so they can copy you. With a little bit of practice, they should be able to eventually start doing it on their own.
2. Start by showing them how to take their clothes off
Generally speaking, clothes are easier for kids to take off than to put on. When you show your special needs child how to take off their own clothes without your help, they will become empowered and eager to tackle the next big challenge: how to put them on.
3. Ask them to participate in the dressing process as you dress them
Before they take over from you, you want to start encouraging them to do simple things like pushing their arms through sleeves and pulling up their pants unaided. Such simple tasks are important for building their confidence and getting them ready to tackle harder tasks later on.
4. Invest in lots of loose bottoms
You want to start them off with something that is very easy to put on. Loose pants, shorts, and skirts are perfect for this. In particular, go for outfits with elastic waists as they are really easy to put on and there is no need for extra fastening once it’s on.
5. Sit them down as they dress
Putting on clothes while sitting down is easy because your child will not have to multitask between balancing to keep standing as they dress. For a special needs child, what you want is to have them focus on one task at a time before moving on to the next.
6. Teach them how to do buttons
Buttoning a shirt, sweater, or pants can seem like an easy thing to you, but it is a rather complicated task, especially for a special needs child. You can teach them how to do this by breaking the process down into a series of simple steps they can follow. Don’t expect it to be perfect the first time - it’s going to take a bit of practice for them to get the hang of this. Pajama buttons are always a good place to start.
7. Arrange their clothes in order when you lay them out
Children with special needs need a bit of order and routine when learning new skills. Having too many choices can easily get overwhelming. So pick out whatever clothes you’d like them to put on, then lay them out in the order they should be put on. Help them distinguish between front and back by placing all the clothes face up, right side up.
8. Have fun with it!
Learning how to dress independently should be fun! Don’t turn it into a chore. They can practice by dressing their stuffed animals for fun, you can incorporate song and dance into the process, or you can demonstrate and let them copy you. If you have more than one child, make it a family affair and let everyone join in! When you make it fun, they’ll learn faster, making your job a lot easier.
Other basic skills you might want to teach your special needs child as they learn how to dress independently include how to tell the difference between front and back (Where are the buttons? Where are the tags?) and how to put on shoes. Remember, start with simple things like loose buttons and slip on shoes, then work your way up to the advanced stuff. It’s going to take some time, so be patient, understanding, and attentive.
When your special needs child eventually figures out how to dress independently, it is a huge confidence boost for them. Plus, they get to learn a new life skill that will benefit them throughout their lives.
Of course, you also have to remember that every child is different. You know yours best, so pace the process of teaching them appropriately according to their level of development. Be supportive of every little effort they make and they might just surprise you!