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Introduction: What is Dressing for Children?

Dressing is one of the self-care activities where children are taught to dress and undress themselves and it can be developed as early as 12 months old depending on their interest, readiness and how frequently they have been practiced.

It is part of activities of daily living (ADL) and comprising selecting clothing and accessories appropriate to time of day, weather, and occasion where we obtain from the wardrobe or closet, fastening and adjusting clothing and shoes as well as removing personal devices, prosthetic devices, or splints (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2014).

In the field of intellectual disabilities (ID), self-care skills have been the basic detail of learning since a long time ago involving breaking skills into steps, least prompt strategies, and modeling strategies (Matson & Hong, 2019) where we also can implement these to our special needs children too either at home or school.

Development of Dressing Skills (Mary Sheridan – Children’s development progress)

We should not see dressing as a chore (Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, 2011). Instead, it is part of children’s development, and we must expose and train them to enable them to develop as typical as possible according to their age. We can refer to the information below as a guide to determine our children’s readiness according to their age.

Age & Skills

12 months

  • Helps with dressing by holding out arm for sleeve and foot for shoe.

  • Cooperative in dressing.

  • Likes to pull shoes off.

18 months

  • Takes off shoes, socks, hats but rarely able to put back on.

2 years

  • Put on a hat and shoes.

  • Removes unfastened coats.

  • Helps push down garments.

  • Find arm holes in t-shirts.

2 ½ years

  • Try to put on socks.

  • Undresses loose pull-down garments.

3 years

  • Able to put on shoes without fastening (may be wrong foot).

  • Can pull zips up and down, but unable to insert or separate shank.

4 years

  • T-Shirt on/off independently but may be back to front.

  • Pull up garments independently.

5 years

  • Dresses and undresses independently but may still need help with small buttons, zips, and laces.

  • Clothing may still be put on back-to-front on occasion.

Why is Dressing Training Important for Children?

  • There are reasons why our children need to learn how to get dressed and undressed. Firstly, it builds their confidence also known as self-esteem and independence in their ADL, to be specified in self-care. Hence, we as parents and teachers have less things to do in helping them in their self-care as they are already able to do it by themselves. Impairment in this area is indicated by failure to develop skills, failure in using them or self-injurious actions (Boat & Wu, 2015).

  • Furthermore, they may develop other skills as they learn how to get dressed and undressed. The skills we are going to notice from the training are fine motor skills (buttoning and zipping), gross motor skills (standing, pulling, and balancing in putting pants, socks, etc.), cognitive skills (memorize the steps) and language skills (naming the clothes, size, colors, and types).

  • Since a long time ago, it has been recognized as a national challenge consequence of disability and functional impairment in children (Boat & Wu, 2015). Moreover, improper instruction given to special needs children may disturb their performance in basic ADL (Cherington, Hlavinka, & Lynch, 2021). Parents of children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD) reported the impact on the lives of their children due to motor problems and the major difficulties are identified as dressing, slowness, and spatial orientation (buttoning, clothing back to front, putting socks and shoes on) (Summers, Larkin, & Dewey, 2008). In consequence, proper strategies and instructions should be given to our special needs children to optimize their participation and performance in self-care as well as their independence in the area.

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