Practical tips


2 Dressing and undressing

Please note: All tips in this section have been suggested by members of our community.

Put ribbons on zip fasteners

I get my daughter to thread ribbons into the zip eyes and tie a knot leaving it long enough for me to either get a finger in, or if I'm putting boots on. I put a lace through the ribbon tassel so I can pull the lace so it zips up my boots. I have arthritis in my hands this helps me a lot, also Velcro on button bands. I need to try Velcro on bras too as hooks and eyes are horrible to do up.

Choose the right garments

Zip-up cardigans are easier to cope with than buttons, and school skirts are easier than pinafores.

Make undressing easier

Undressing can be less stressful if you do it earlier when the person is less tired. A bath before tea and a dressing-gown could be better than staying in uniform or day clothes until later.

In the right order

When I help Pete to dress I say “one leg in, two legs in” for trousers and the same for arms when putting tops on. The reverse can be used for undressing.

Persistence pays off

When John gets dressed we praise him at each stage to encourage him and so he knows he has got it right. It takes patience but it’s amazing what someone can do if you keep insisting.

Jazz up a collar

If you have a collar to support his or her neck and you want to jazz it up a bit, cut the foot out of a colourful sock and pop it on. You can even match with what he or she is wearing.

Which arm first?

Right from early on I've always put Bobby's right arm in his jacket first and now he's in the habit of doing it himself. It’s easier than putting the left in first.

Cleaning Velcro

Use a barbecue brush with short wire bristles to clean the hook side of Velcro. Sellotape just doesn’t work.

Troublesome buttons

Buy dresses that button up the front as they are so much easier to put on.

Something to lean on

I prop Beth against a settee or something solid so she can balance.

Keep your balance

Sit the person on the floor or on a low stool to help them remain stable. They can concentrate on undressing without worrying about falling or losing their balance.

Trouser trouble

When putting on trousers, put socks on first. It helps you slide into trouser legs much more easily.

Mornings made easier

We set up a PECS strip attached to the bathroom door with a picture for each activity and a ‘what you are doing now’ place. After each activity (undress, wash, get dressed etc) John takes the picture off and puts it in the pot below. We were surprised at how quickly he picked this up. Even when he doesn’t want to do something (he grumbles a lot), if it’s on the PECS board he’ll do it.

Line up your shirt buttons

Put the unbuttoned shirt down on a table with the front lined up correctly. On the button side, choose the button nearest the lower chest or tummy and draw a thick line with a laundry marker between the button and the edge of the shirt. This won't be seen when the shirt is fastened. On the corresponding buttonhole, fold the shirt back slightly and draw another thick line. Now it’s easy to match up the marks, fasten that button first and the rest seem to fall into place.

Fabric conditioner smoothes the way

If someone has trouble putting their socks on, using a good fabric conditioner makes the socks much stretchier and more flexible so far easier to put on.

Finding your feet

John has a visual impairment and developmental delays and isn’t normally interested in his feet. One day we ran out of white and blue socks so I put a red pair on him and lifted up his feet for him to see. He smiled and giggled. Now we only put him in bright coloured socks.

Stop losing things

We printed off some clip art pictures, mounted and laminated them and put them on a metal ring. We decide each morning what prompt cards are needed and we attach them to Beth’s bag. At the end of the day, the cards are checked. The number of lost cardigans and PE kit has dramatically reduced this year.

Reminder chart

We put a big colourful picture chart on Beth’s wardrobe door, reminding her only of the things she forgets to do (not all the processes of getting dressed etc). This saves many journeys up and down the stairs.

Organise the wardrobe

I divide my son's wardrobe and drawers into different sections: school, going out and scruffy jobs. Now he can decide what to wear himself and he doesn't get nagged by me for putting his best clothes on to wash the car.

Happier shopping

Once you’ve found a style and a shop which suits the person, stick with it. Internet shopping is also a life saver for someone who dislikes shopping or cannot cope with change.

Pyjamas

My son has sensory issues with different materials, so he wears his pyjama bottoms under his trousers. He feels happier keeping them on, so we just let him.

Socks made easier

We buy socks with coloured heels to help John get them the right way round. Trainer socks are even easier for self-dressing, for example for a PE lesson.

Dressing for the weather

Picked this up via Twitter but strikes me as being a handy tool for folk with learning disabilities, iDress for weather.

Use visual storyboards

Create visual storyboards showing different types of weather and appropriate clothing for each. This can help the person you are caring for choose the most appropriate clothing

Buy bigger clothes

Beth is difficult to dress so I buy her clothes one size too big. Tights and socks are tricky – a couple of sizes too big make life easier for her.

Home uniform

My son refused to get dressed when it wasn't a school day - he'd stay in his PJs all the time. So, I decided as he was OK with his school uniform I'd get him a 'home uniform' - 7 pairs of jogging bottoms in navy and 7 tops in light blue (blue being the favourite colour). This worked a treat!

Lay out the clothes

Getting ready in the morning has always been very difficult for my son. I decided to prepare all his clothes in advance and to put them on the floor in a way it represent a body, with jumper shirt, underwear, trousers and socks in a man shape, and it works!

Knickers - which way round?

After a certain age, girls’ underwear doesn’t always have a picture or bow at the front. I use a laundry marker pen to draw a pretty bow or smiley face to show which is the front.

Giving choices

My 4 year old son who has autism is often resistant to putting on certain items of clothing so instead of trying to get him to wear something I give him a choice of 3 items. This ensures that he feels he has made a choice and is in control of the situation.

Work backwards

A great way to teach people the basics of dressing themselves is to work backwards, so first teach them to put on their shoes. Once they've got this, reward them and then teach putting on socks and then shoes. It can take a while but worth the end result. This technique can be used for almost any routined learning.

Alternative to tracksuit bottoms

John struggles with fastenings and finding smart trousers with an elasticated waist is a challenge. In the end, we found some black chef’s trousers on eBay, which look smart and can be pulled on and off.

Knees up

People with tense leg muscles can find it hard to separate their legs to put trousers on. Encourage or help them to lie down, keep their legs together and bend their knees up. This can often help to relax them.

Crop top bra

A hook-less crop top bra may be easier to put on independently if the girl or woman you are caring for finds fiddly bra clasps too difficult.

Make familiar

Sometimes it helps if people are exposed to clothing for a few weeks before they are required to wear it. Just having it around, seeing, smelling, feeling it may all have to come before wearing it.

Trendy elasticated trousers

Thrilled to find trendy elasticated trousers (needed for dressing and loo) for Matthew from George/Asda.

Sleepsuits

I highly recommend the strong comfortable handmade sleepsuits from KC sleepsuits. My daughter's have lasted for three years; adjustable ties to stop removal, very strong and you can order them 'miles to big' because of the elasticated leg. 

Dressability

Dressability provides clothing alteration and dressmaking service to people with special needs.

Ski trousers

Ski trousers are great for wheelchair users. For extra warmth, put thermal long johns underneath

It's a wrap!

For someone of any age a “haramaki” (belly wrap) is brilliant, especially for people with less movement. By keeping your middle warm your whole body warms very effectively. It is easy to get on over or under clothing and more comfortable than bulky layers. It stretches with you which is great for people sitting in chairs.

Hood first

My daughter had problems putting on her coat until I taught her to put the hood on first, then slip her arms in. That way her coat is always the right way round and she doesn't get frustrated.

Share your tips and feedback

We'd love to hear your tips, practical suggestions and feedback.
This link will open in a new window.

Using these tips

These tips have been contributed by members of our online community. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question to the community or talk to one of our community advisors. If you have any concerns about your health or the wellbeing of someone you are caring for, please consult a doctor or qualified professional.