Getting dressed is a daily activity that can routinely cause stress for everyone involved. To intensify an already difficult situation, transitioning from summer to school is a big change in routine. Back to school often coincides with the weather getting colder. Transitioning from shorts, t-shirts and sandals to long sleeves, pants and sneakers. For our touch sensitive kiddos, this is a huge deal!
5 TIPS TO HELP YOUR CHILD WITH DRESSING:
Stressors like change in routine can exacerate sensory challenges. Below are some tips to help ease the transition from summer to school clothes for your kids and ultimately promote independence and success with this daily life skill.
1. Deep Pressure
Have you ever had a moment when you are feeling really overwhelemed and someone gives you a big hug and it suddenly calms you down? That is an example of deep pressure touch. Deep pressure is a a form of passive input that can be extremely calming and organizing for our central nervous system. It can help a child feel more grounded and lower his/her state of arousal, which allows better focus, concentration and attention. Also, deep pressure can work to off-set discomfort with light touch. It is great to provide deep pressure prior to dressing, incorporate during the task, and even after dressing is completed. Before dressing, deep pressure can help your child get his/her body ready for the difficult task. As well as important to incorproate during the dressing activity (squeezing each body part after it is in the clothes). Once the child is dressed, deep pressure activities may be beneficial to help the child keep his/her body calm as he/she gets ready to head to school.
Pillow squishes, a lotion massage, climbing under a pillow pile, wrapping up like a burrito in a blanket, or just a nice bear hug before dressing are a few examples of how to incorporate deep pressure. Making deep pressure touch part of your routine can make a big difference. Click HERE for more examples of deep pressure activities
2. Be Prepared
Before the week starts, have your child try on different outfits to see what works and what doesn’t. Save new clothes for when you’re in a routine and can handle a challenge. If they have a uniform, make sure you are working on getting used to that in weeks leading up to school. Have your child lay out their outfit the night before so they know what to expect and how it might feel.
Maintaining the same routine and structure each day will help your child know what to expect and can help them be more prepared.
You can also use visual aides and checklists to help promote independence as the child gets older. Click HERE for a free visual schedule for home and school.
3. Use A Mirror
Have you ever had the feeling that something was crawling up your arm, how did you react? Probably initial panic because you weren’t sure what it was. Our tactile sensitive kids feel like this often with clothes.
Have your child dress in front of a full-length mirror may help because it allows the child to see their whole body when they dress which can promote a feeling of safety.
You can reinforce with verbalizations which body part they are putting the clothes on to and/or how it feels while they are watching in the mirror. You can support their experience by phrases like “You just put your left arm all the way through that soft sweater sleeve, nice work! Now its time for your right arm!”
4. Make It Fun
All kids respond better when something is fun! Do they like to race? Have a dance party? Pretend they are a superhero getting ready for a mission? A princess getting dressed for a tea party? If time allows, put on some music, play dress up, add some stickers. Use your imagination to make dressing more fun and engaging for your child.
Maybe you can add some positive messages to your mirror with some reminders: take a deep breath, you are brave. Or a new message gets added each day of the week after they are dressed.
5. Stay Positive
Dressing may seem automatic and effortless to many of us, but for the touch sensitive child it can be a minefield of discomfort and anxiety. Celebrate the small wins – did dressing take 2 minutes less today than yesterday? Did your child find the right socks with ease today? Did he/she breathe their way out of a meltdown? Did he/she smile or say something positive during the activity? Continue to encourage your child even when it is hard for you both and always find something to praise them for – before, during, and after the activity. Click HERE for a 10 positive affirmations you can use with your child
Want to learn more about fostering confidence within your child? Check out our post on the Growth Mindset HERE
If nothing else, remember that progress is NOT linear. Your child will have good days and bad days, just like we do as adults. Celebrate every little win.
We hope you found this post helpful. Click HERE to learn more about what services and supports South Shore Therapies has to offer. Results that make a difference.
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Hi, I am an occupational therapist at South Shore Therapies. I specialize in pediatirc brain injury and stroke, but love working with all families to help kids reach their optimal potential. Our mission with SST’s social media platform is to empower, educate and inspire families to take on life’s challenges while promoting an optimistic outlook and a brighter future.