Quick Tips on Dressing Skills

This weekend we had some less-than-fun farm “to-dos” to tend to so we kept it low key…..and the demands minimal. Because everyone just needs a break sometimes.

Here’s a little bit of what we got into, though. Lately we’ve been working towards more independent dressing. We’re solid at taking our shirt and pants on/off excluding the actual pulling up of our pants. Which is a behavioral roadblock- not a lack of ability. And we have to pull up our pants a lot during the day (we’re potty training- pray for us) which means I get “fussed at” a lot because really- what kind of mother expects her son to pull up his own pants?!?!? We’re also working on orienting our shirt and pants appropriately and putting on smaller clothing articles like socks, shoes, cold weather gear, etc. We’re not tackling snaps, zippers, buttons, whatchamacallits, and thingamabobs in this post because honestly……they’re a whole other beast.

Disclaimer- remember I’m a speech therapist, not an OT……but I believe the “mom” title is where the majority of my credibility lies anyways 😉

Also, because I’m NOT an OT, I for real didn’t even realize that there are developmental norms for dressing (what are there not norms for, really?). *Remember they’re a guide not the rule…don’t make yourself crazy with checklists. So we both don’t look foolish, however, here they are:

Developmental Dressing Guidelines

So, every morning, Caleb and I get him dressed (and yes, your child’s participation will make it take 3094230948 times longer than if you just did it but you don’t want to put your 18 year old’s underpants on him if it’s not necessary so you may as well start now). First off, particularly at this age, I’d let your child have input in what they’re going to wear. I personally do not open up the closet door for 100% free choice in this (cause we can’t wear muscle tees when it’s 32 degrees outside) but I do give him a choice of two shirts to wear. Asking a child with Autism who has verbal language that is emerging versus within normal limits “What do you want to wear?” isn’t going to work. Because there are approximately 89430943897492834 different responses to choose from. Open-ended questions at this developmental level are overwhelming. I have walked away from a full grocery cart more than once due to the overwhelming selection at some places so you can imagine how capacities can’t quite meet demands with that approach. But if you ask “Do you want to wear a dump truck or a rocket ship?” you’re much more likely to get an imitation, response, vocalization, or even a point/gesture towards which one is preferred. Because now, instead of 8943094389792834 different choices, there are only 2. To avoid conversations like these…….

“Caleb, what do you want for snack?”


……use this tactic at snack time too!

“Caleb, do you want chips or raisins?”

*production of unintelligible jargon

*points to bag of chips

I consider that a success!

Back to getting dressed. It’s been pretty easy for us because Caleb does not have any sensory sensitivities to getting dressed and learns really well with visual cues. If it’s more of a struggle in your house though, I found some articles that may help!

If your child needs help with the visual perceptual skills necessary for dressing, check this out:

Visual Perceptual Help

If you need to take sensory strategies into consideration when helping your child get dressed, click below.

Sensory Considerations

If your child needs a boost in the Gross Motor Skills department when getting dressed, this may help:

Gross Motor Help

Caleb has clearly enjoyed our getting dressed learning sessions so much that he has begun running around the house finding anything he can to put on all by himself. (And I’m not gonna lie….we maybe need to switch our focus to putting dirty clothes into hampers cause some days there’s a lot laying around he can find to wear. Cause you know- real life).


Shirt 3 is not really a shirt…..


Look for a clothing vocabulary activity for me to share with ya’ll coming up as it’s clearly needed.


Dude- dino pjs over airplane pjs over a Star Wars shirt is an awesome look 🙂

And, in true monkey-see-monkey-do fashion, Lil Sis Ari now is carrying around stray articles of clothing and losing her ever-loving mind when they’re not put on her. (Cause ya know, it’s been a hot minute since I was rockin’ a size 2T).

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And since you appreciate your sanity you’ll give in and let her wear brother’s shirt covered in what appears to be marshmallow explosion.


Next week maybe we’ll start learning how to do laundry 😉

Check out some more “Getting Dressed” selections on our Pinterest page!

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Holler at me!