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Getting Dressed!

Does your child struggle to get their clothes around the right way? Work out how to put their socks on? Always end up with their tags hanging out, or their waistbands twisted? or have trouble tying their laces? Occupational therapy may help!

One of the first self-care skills that children learn is helping with getting dressed (which we all know can be a mammoth task at the best of times!). Children usually learn to undress themselves first as this is generally easier. It is an important milestone but can take lots and lots of practice!

When children are finding dressing difficult, something called “backward chaining” can be a great way to encourage them! Backward chaining involves adult support, which is gradually reduced step by step. It involves breaking down the steps and teaching them in the reverse order. Using backward chaining is a fabulous way to ensure some success whilst teaching the skills. Instead of having the child start at the beginning, backward chaining encourages an adult completing all but the last step of the task, and letting the child complete the final step. As the child becomes more confident and skilled, the adult completes one step less and the child completes one step more, always with the child completing the last step/s.

It is important to use encouraging language, such as “I think you could push one arm through” and allow plenty of time. Weekends are a great time to practice dressing skills as there is usually extra time without the pressure of having to get out of the house at a certain time! Be sure to provide lots of positive feedback and praise to your child so that they feel well supported and motivated to increase their independence!

If your child is still having trouble with these skills, never fear! Occupational therapist’s are here! We are skilled in breaking down activities and may recommend different positioning or dressing techniques that are specific to your child’s abilities. If you have any concerns be sure to book in with one of our occupational therapist’s at Nurture!

Check out this quick video teaching shoelace tying with the backward chaining technique!


Brooke Rimmington

Occupational Therapist

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