Tuesday, February 02, 2021

How to Teach Hyperlexic Kids to Dress Themselves: 30 Tips & Strategies that Work

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Tips for how to teach kids to dress themselves, especially if they are hyperlexic or autistic. You'll love these tips for teaching dressing skills.

Someone recently asked me if it was normal for hyperlexic kids to be slower at learning to dress themselves. 

The answer is yes. Many hyperlexic kids do require extra support when it comes to learning how to get dressed on their own. 

Motivation, executive functioning skills, motor delays, sensory issues, and hyperfocusing on preferred interests can all play a part here.

However, there are a lot of tweaks that you can make to your child's environment that will help set them up for success. 

It's also important to keep the hyperlexic learning profile in mind when teaching dressing skills and to play to their strengths. So yes, you know that means there are going to be some strategies below that include the written word or other visual supports.

Dressing skills and hyperlexia: tips and strategies for how to teach kids to dress themselves

Dressing Skills & Hyperlexia: 30 Tips & Strategies to Try

1. Label bins and drawers so your child knows where to find socks, underwear, etc. You can use just words, just pictures, or pictures paired with words. You could also include notes about when to wear certain clothing right on the labels.

2. Use a visual schedule, chart, or checklist that outlines what clothing your child needs to wear. You can always just write this down on a whiteboard each morning or use this blank routine chart.

3. Explicitly teach them how to pick clothing that's appropriate for the weather, season, and/or occasion. This free choosing what to wear social story can help.

4. Opt for loose clothing that is easy to put on. That means skip the skinny jeans, anything with snaps or buttons, or things with zippers or belts. Instead, focus on clothing that will build your child's confidence because they're easy to put on. Basically, pick less complicated clothing options and consider outdoor gear too (e.g., using a neck warmer in the winter instead of a scarf).

5. Use socks that have colored heels so your child can easily tell which way the socks go. The colored heel acts as a visual cue.

6. Explicitly teach them how to find the tag so they know which is the front or back and which is the inside or outside.

7. Label clothing and shoes with words like front, back, left, or right so they know which way the clothing should be worn.

8. Explicitly teach other rules related to getting dressed that might not be as obvious such as closing drawers, closing the closet, putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket or hamper, etc. Write down these hidden rules.

9. Have them get dressed in front of a mirror so they can see what is happening. This tip works great for buttoning up shirts too.

10. Start by teaching them how to undress first.

11. Let them finish a step. For example, you put their pants on up to their ankles or knees and they have to pull them up the rest of the way. Or you pull a shirt over their head and they have to pull it down all the way.

12. Lay their clothes out in order so they have a visual cue of what they'll look like when dressed and/or in which order to get dressed. Bonus tip: use sticky notes to number clothing that's laid out so they know which piece of clothing to put on first, second, third, etc.

13. Explicitly teach them the steps needed for each type of clothing. For instance, with socks, you have to unroll them, scrunch them up, slide them onto your foot, and then pull up. Write these steps down.

14. Use clothing that includes their interests so that they are motivated to get dressed. You can find tons of fun space related shirts, ABC pajamas, and whatnot these days.

15. Make sure they know how to open and close drawers or take clothing off of hangers. Practice often.

16. Opt for easy to use closet organizers that keep clothing visible and/or don't require drawers. Or try dressers that have drawers that are easy to open. Trust me, this will help reduce frustration. Ask me how I know...

17. Offer choices. Try holding up two shirts and asking them to pick one of them to wear. Deciding what to wear and making choices can be difficult and overwhelming for hyperlexic kids.

18. Add a zipper pull extension or a tag to their zippers to make it easier to grab onto and zip up. Bonus tip: write a cue word on it like pull.

19. Model getting dressed, narrating the steps as you go. Be sure to even dress incorrectly so they can point out what's wrong (e.g., putting a shirt on backwards or inside out). Siblings can also help model.

20. For anything with a hood like a coat or some hooded sweatshirts (aka bunnyhugs here in Saskatchewan!), encourage them to put the hood on first. Doing so makes it so much easier to line up arms with their arm holes and whatnot.

21. Practice difficult clothing situations like inside out shirts or socks, sleeves stuck inside itself, pockets that are sticking out, turning a shirt around when it's on backwards, etc. Model how to fix it so they know how to problem solve these issues in the future.

22. Teach them scripts (and write them down!) of what they might need to say when getting dressed. Phrases such as "I need help," "My zipper is stuck," or "I want to wear my periodic table of elements shirt today."

23. Take photos of different outfit options and display them for your child to select from. It takes out the guesswork of pairing clothing together on their own and they can then try to locate the clothes that match the picture on their own. Bonus tip: take photos of your child in these outfits and save them to a specific album on your phone or iPad for them to scroll through.

24. Organize your child's closet into sections like school clothes or dress clothes so they can easily pick something that matches the occasion they are dressing for.

25. Turn getting dressed into a game. Timed games or challenges work especially well with hyperlexic kids. For instance, you could challenge them to get into their pajamas in 30 seconds or less or to put their pants on faster than you can put on your own pants (go slow and let them win to build their confidence).

26. Have them sit down while putting clothes on so that they don't have to work on staying balancing on one leg while getting dressed.

27. Work on fine motor skills needed for buttons, snaps, zippers, etc. Look for fun activities that will help your child practice these skills in other ways.

28. Create a specific routine for getting dressed, whether that is after breakfast, before breakfast, right when they wake up, etc. Hyperlexic kids thrive on routine so make it predictable for them. You could even designate a specific time (e.g., always get dressed at 8:00 am).

29. Offer a high-interest activity after getting dressed to help motivate them. Something like playing with their letters. Doing so will motivate them to accomplish their task of getting dressed quicker.

30. Remind your child to check that they have everything on correctly once they do get dressed, including checking that their shirt is on correctly (tag at the back and inside, artwork on the front, etc.). They can do a visual check for the tags, look in a mirror to see if it looks correct, or check with a parent to ensure their clothing is on correctly.

Other Hyperlexia Resources You'll Love

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How to Teach WH Questions to Hyperlexic Kids

Tips and strategies for teaching hyperlexic and autistic kids how to get dressed by themselves