Autism, Independence and Getting Dressed

This is a guest post by Marita from Stuff with Thing

We are in the midst of a bedroom makeover currently and it has gotten me thinking back over the various ways we have taught my (now 8yo) daughter to dress herself independently.

For a variety of reasons she struggles with getting dressed, she is on the autism spectrum and there is the twin difficulties of sensory processing disorder impacting her motor control as well as executive function issues.

When she started early intervention at 3yo the Occupational Therapist got us to lay her clothing out on the floor in the shape of a body, we would then help her to get dressed, saying the name of the item and pointing to it in our visual schedule before pulling it on.

The next step was to do the same thing laying out the clothing, saying the name of the item and pointing to it in our visual schedule BUT she had to put it on herself, although we still helped with buttons, zips etc.

Then it was just us pointing to the schedule as she got dressed from the clothing laid out on the floor. Finally we withdrew all our prompts and she needed to follow the schedule herself and get dressed from the clothes laid out.

Following on from that we put visual images on her clothing drawers so that she could find the items herself and get dressed. The visuals matched those used in her schedule.

Now this took years, we started when she was 3 years old and earlier this year, I realised this system just was not working. So we changed to labelled boxes for each day of the week and that has been working really well. When you have kids on the autism spectrum it can feel like progress never happens, but it does, just takes a little longer than their neurotypical counterparts.

Here we are at the next step, two wardrobes, one green and one pink, one for school clothes, one for everyday clothes. Fingers crossed this transition is not too soon.

We still have our picture schedules, they have remained a staple throughout the last 5 years. Occasionally modified, always essential. I have for free download the 4 staples of our getting dressed picture schedule.

There are 3 pages of clothing items and prompts (like “get undressed”), I printed the pages, laminated them, cut each square out and stuck a small piece of velcro on the back.

The other page is the schedule board which is stuck up on the bedroom wall, ours is laminated with velcro dots in each square, this way I can mix and match the getting dressed schedule as necessary.

When we first started, once an item of clothing was put on we would remove its picture from the schedule and put it in a “Finished” envelope stuck to the bottom of the schedule … which is a regular envelope with a finished flag picture on it.

This helped my daughter see where she was up to, at first I did the prompting and removing the image for her, then I prompted and once she had the item of clothing on she put the image into the finished envelope. The third stage was for her to prompt herself, get dressed and then put the image in the finished envelope. 5 years later and she doesn’t remove the images, just looks at the sequence and puts the next item on. Each child gets there at their own rate, with patience and support and consistent assistance from their carers.

Create your own chart using these FREE pages below.

What routine helps your child get dressed in the mornings?

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Marita writes at Stuff With Thing about life, the universe and Autism.

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This post was written by a guest contributor. If you are interested in ‘being my guest’ please visit Be my Guest page for more details.

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