Clothing and


Learning to get dressed takes patience, time, and lots of practice for any DD child. You will find that your DD child will take longer to master these skills than your average-sized children did, but they CAN learn to do it all. Start slowly, one clothing item at a time -- nothing breeds success like success!

It is easier to start the young child on undressing, rather than dressing. Often both parents are working, making mornings too hectic for initial learning experiences with dressing. It has been suggested that having the child undress from his/her pajamas in the morning and daytime clothes in the evening is a good place to start. On weekends, more learning can take place and in time, the child will become more experienced with both dressing and undressing. Again, even if only one piece of clothing is successfully accomplished, it's a great start!

Alterations are a must for any DD because right-sized clothing makes dressing easiest. Hopefully you or someone you know can sew enough to do alterations on trouser lengths, hems, shirts, coats, etc. These alterations plus loops on underwear, rings on zippers, and "lightened" elastic on pull-on pants and skirts are often all that is necessary. See below for the individual descriptions.

A dressing stick reacher is a child's best friend when it comes to self-care. The IT reacher pictured (left) is just a dowel with a plant hook on one end and a bent double coat hook at the other end. It has 1001 uses and for that reason is called an IT by one DD child -- we have adopted that name here. Another version of this reacher has crosspieces which can help with any grip problems that a wrist loop can't resolve. ITs can be made at home easily, using dowel lengths suited to your child's particular needs.  Every home needs LOTS of these reachers!  Ready-made dressing sticks, including a VERY useful folding model (great for school or travel), are also available commercially at Amazon, using "dressing stick" in the Search box.

The bent double coat hook end of the IT is used for removing socks and shoes, pushing down underwear and/or trousers for undressing or self-toileting, adjusting the backs of collars, as well as being a general reacher for faucets, elevators buttons, etc. The plant hook end is used mostly on underwear and pants loops, zipper rings, and shoe rings.

Usually children start out their dressing sitting down on a low stool, especially to get underwear and trousers on. The pants (or underwear) are tossed on the floor front-side up. The child uses the plant hook end of the dressing stick on the loops to get the pants over the feet and to about knee level. Once at knee level, the child stands up and gets the underwear the rest of the way up using the up-and-out motions described below (either by hand or with the reacher). Using a mirror allows the child to direct his dressing stick to any clothing loops that might usually be out of sight, even those on shoe straps.

Another innovative idea for a dressing stick (pictured right) can be made out of thin wood or a paint stirring stick.  See the full instructions of how to make two versions.  Like the IT above, this reacher can be used for dressing, as well as being handy for light switches and for the elevator buttons  The edges should be rounded off to avoid scratches to the skin.  To make a foldable version, one that can fit into a purse or a man's jacket pocket, cut the reacher in half and add a small hinge -- also add a small hook near this spot to keep the reacher from folding while in use.


For a beginner, using underwear a size or 2 larger than usual makes it easier to get the underwear up and down. For girls, nylon underwear with a cotton crotch are usually easiest to get on and off; outer clothing also slides more easily over these undies. Another idea for girls is underwear that's made with a wider waistband similar to that on boys' jockey shorts.

Adding loops to underwear waistbands, up to 3 loops on each side (at first) at various intervals (with another set 1/4 way around the back on each side for kids in back braces), help get the underwear up from any position and can be used with the dressing stick if necessary. The loops can be made using fat shoestrings sewn on like belt loops or even longer to accommodate an entire hand -- loops have as many variations as people do. Holding the loops by hand or dressing stick, a side-to-side swing that goes up and outward gets the underwear up more easily. Using a mirror can help in the learning stages and/or during stints in a brace.

Side Loops

Multiple Underwear Loops

Close-up of Underwear Loops



Trousers/jeans with belt loops are easier to get up and down than all-elastic waists. Pull-on pants take longer to master, but if the elastic is "lightened" (usually by cutting it in half width-wise) and shoestring loops attached to the sides at the waist, some younger children can handle these. "Lightened" elastic and loops are also helpful for little girls' skirts.

A ring (e.g., 16mm split ring) or a small chain can be attached to trouser zippers to pull zippers up by hand or with the plant hook end of the IT reacher.

If necessary, cut out the snap/button, then add an extended tab to eliminate the other half of the trouser adjustment (see photos and instructions below).  Replacing the entire zipper-snap arrangement with velcro, perhaps with ribbon or shoestring loops at the waist to ease locking the velcro, is another idea.

Instructions: Make tab from leftover material, sew it on just under the end of waistband.   Add velcro as shown above to each section of trousers/jeans.  Add a D-ring to end of extended tab. Tab can slide under belt loop for a more finished look after dressing (photo right). Add split ring to zipper pull.



Medical supply stores sell a gadget that makes buttoning easier and faster for those children who have difficulty with this. Velcro can also be substituted for buttons or snaps.


The "nursery school way" is an easy way to put on coats and unbuttoned blouses and shirts -- most children learn this in preschool, although it might take a bit more practice for a DD child to get the swing right. Velcro can be substituted for any snaps. A ring on the zipper is helpful too.

While mittens are fairly standard for very little ones, the one-sized "magic gloves" (which can stretch to fit you!) work well for older DD children, especially if they have little grippers all over the palm. You can shorten the fingers of these gloves easily on a sewing machine.


Socks can be another special problem, due to chubby and often sweaty feet, as well as varying limitations of range of motion. There are sock gadgets available commercially and although most might be too large for children, they can often be cut to size.

Some DDs prefer a hard plastic sock gadget, also available commercially. It looks more like a half-cup (with a handle or ropes) rather than a flat piece of flexible plastic like the more common kind shown here (right). Again, this gadget might be too large for some children's socks.

There is another option for little feet. Using a stadium cup, place the sock inside with the cuff scrunched over the rim of the cup. The child stands this cup on the floor, puts his/her foot inside, and as the foot goes in the cup, the sock goes on.

A similar gadget for older children with larger feet can be made out of a 4-5" plexiglass tube cut in half diameter-wise. Place the sock inside-out on the tube, then tuck in the toe; after that, it goes on the same as the stadium cup idea. Smaller children can use 3" PVC pipe for this version. This particular gadget works like a DREAM, especially for children in back braces since no bending is required.


Tube socks are easiest to get on and off, but if your child has small, but very wide feet, purchase larger ones and resize them by cutting off and resewing the toe end.



Velcro straps with small D-rings at the ends can be added to ANY lace-up shoes. A shoe repair shop can make the straps using leather, velcro, and the D-rings -- you can also make your own straps on a sewing machine using velcro (double thickness for strength) and just having them sewn on the shoes by the repair shop (cheap!). When using same-size D-rings, make sure the two pieces are looped through before they get sewn onto the shoe. The D-rings allow easy strap adjustment with the hook end of a long dressing stick. Looking in a mirror further eliminates any bending while adjusting the straps. Shoes for younger children often come with velcro straps; the D-rings can be added at home with a regular sewing machine using a smooth-side piece of velcro to attach the D-rings to the end of the straps. Some children manage with only one velcro strap at the ankle and the lower part of the lacing is done with very thin elastic tied like a shoestring.  Commercial versions (shown above, right) of these straps are available, but one might have to add more velcro to make them long enough.

Answer 2 shoes are another idea for small wide feet. They can also work well with AFOs. Check this website for more information:


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