Encourage Independent Dressing with this Simple and Fun Trick


Fall is a great time to promote your child’s independence with dressing.  Quite often taking off items (coat, hat, socks and shoes) are the easiest and earliest successes.  One easy approach is to complete all the steps required for the specific task, and then ask the child to complete the final step (back chaining).  As they complete this step more easily and automatically, and one more small step.  Continue adding more steps incrementally until they are completely independent in that specific task.  

 An example, when taking off their coat, might require you to unzip the coat, pull their arm out of one sleeve completely, and one sleeve down to the wrist, and then request them to take off their coat. You can add more steps to the process (working backwards) as they become more successful.

When it comes to putting clothing items on, a coat is often a great starting point.  One simple technique is the “one, two, flip-a-roo” method.  It may not be for everyone, but it is definitely worth a try.  The steps are as follows (and you can again work toward independence using a back chaining technique):

1.       Position the coat with the collar at the child’s feet. 
2.      Prompt the child to put their arms out straight and place each arm in the prospective sleeves.
3.      Prompt the child to then stand up and lift their arms up to the ceiling and flipping their coat over their head.  Their arms should slide in to the sleeves.  If they don’t slide in initially, assist it in them doing so.

The most important points for the child’s success with this technique are to positioning the coat properly and developing the motor pattern of “flipping the coat” over their head.
                                                    Enjoy!    ~Deb Guarino, OTR/L

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