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How to help your child with autism to dress independently

How to help your child with autism to dress independently

Every child with autism is different and may have different activities that they struggle with. One common overwhelming activity is getting dressed by themselves, especially considering how stimulating the process can be. 

In this article, we discuss a few important tips on how to support your child in learning how to develop skills that can enable them to dress themselves.

5 tips to support your child with autism in learning to dress independently

Some of the strategies you can use to help your child get dressed by themselves include: 

Celebrate the small steps

Children with autism can at times feel disappointed if they struggle with performing certain activities that their neurotypical peers find trivial. A good practice is to reward your child for every little bit of progress they make along the way. 

For example, you can give them their favorite treat once they button up their shirt within a certain timeframe or put on a skirt without any assistance. These positive reinforcers can help instill a sense of trust in your child, helping them be more comfortable with sharing any clothing-related issues with you.

Use aural and visual aids

Kids on the autism spectrum are often hypersensitive to audio and visual input. If you know the kind of reaction generated by your child to a specific stimulus, you can utilize it to help them learn a particular skill.

Take the case of colors. f a child has difficulty remembering to put on a 2-button trouser, you can paint the buttons red and green, so they know which ones to close first. Many parents even consult with their child’s therapist to develop unique ways to help their children dress themselves.

Stick to a routine

An excellent way to help your children with autism is to define a schedule. A weekly or monthly plan can take the guesswork out of the equation, whereas placing clothes as per visual cues can help them find their garments quickly. You can also use picture charts to help them understand the proper attire according to the situation.

Adjust clothing for motor skills challenges

Tying a knot or putting on a hairclip can be challenging for some children with autism. They may benefit from additional help from you as they develop their gross motor skills. Start them off with loose-fitting clothes that are easier to manage and gradually upgrade to the correct size fits.

Do they have problems with buttons? Use velcro instead. If they can’t put on a tie, buy them a pre-tied one. Always remain accommodating and show that it doesn’t matter what they prefer, as long as they dress appropriately.

Help them process sensory stimulus

Distress from external stimuli can be uncomfortable for many children with autism. It can mean that they have some textures and colors that they prefer and some that they don’t. During season changes, this is a significant problem when some children grow accustomed to specific garments.

You can help them process sensory stimuli by assisting with the correct color combination. For example, if you know that your child doesn’t like the color yellow, you can put the coats in a yellow cabinet for the summer. Other factors like tags and seam lines also come into play. Many kids with autism don’t like them on their clothes, so it can be helpful to buy clothes that can be functional without those features.

Tips you can apply for specific types of clothing

In addition to the basic steps, you can follow certain procedures for specific garments to avoid the common problems that children with autism may encounter. 

Tips for some of the most common garments include:

  • Shirts - Try to go for tagless and seamless shirts. Use loose-fitting shirts and the ones that look the same even when inside out. See if your child finds checkered shirts or simple shirts more comfortable.
  • Pants - Cargo pants can be problematic for children with autism. Choose the pants with an elastic waist and have a regular fit. In place of zippers and buttons, you can use velcro or clip-on pins.
  • Coats - Start with a more oversized, loose-fitting jacket for your child that doesn’t have a zipper. The over-the-top flip-flop method is usually efficient for young children. It is not ideal for hanging the coat in a drawer. Instead, lay it flat on their bed with the sleeves and hood out.
  • Socks and shoes - Use socks with colored heels and store them near the shoes. If your child prefers long socks, teach them to bunch the socks before putting them on. In the case of shoes, you may want to look into laceless shoes that are easy to wear.
  • Accessories - Your child may want to enhance their look with accessories, and as long as they are not a safety hazard, there is no issue with wearing them. Make sure that there are no sharp edges, and separate any cuff links or earrings with colored compartments.

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