Tips for Teaching Kids with Autism to Dress Themselves {with FREE Printable}

Most 8-year-olds understand the concept of getting dressed. But for a kid with autism, it can be a daunting task.

  • They have to pick out their clothes.
  • They need to be able to assess the weather/season – to know what they should wear.
  • They need to be able to assess the weather/season – to know what they should wear.
  • They need the fine motor skills to manipulate laces, buttons and zippers.
  • They need to know the difference between the front and the back.
  • They need the coordination to slip on a shirt over their head.
  • And balance to put on their pants.
  • Know their left from their right to put on their shoes.

The simple act of putting on clothes, the daily thing we do without thinking twice about – has to be broken down into several steps for kids like Norrin.

Most mornings, it’s easier (and faster) to dress Norrin rather than let him dress himself. But Norrin has been exhibiting signs of independence and slowly, I’m learning to let go and let him do for himself.

As a working mom, it saves time to put together Norrin’s outfits for the week. And in the morning, I lay it out for him across his bed in the order I want him to dress himself: undershirt, underwear, shirt, pants and socks.

Teaching Norrin to dress himself has been a step by step processing. Here are 6 things that have helped us while working on this life skill.

Start Backwards. Before we started teaching Norrin to how get dressed, we taught him how to undress first. Undressing is easier and I felt like it gave him an understanding of the concept of getting dressed.

Front/Back. When helping Norrin dress himself, I always showed him the front and back of each item. I show him the tag or the wording – he now knows to check and can recognize when he’s put something on the wrong way. He still puts things on backwards sometimes but we help him through it.

Keep clothes simple and comfortable. Norrin can manipulate a zipper but he still has some difficulty with buttons. Most of his pants still have elastic waistbands to make dressing easier. Buttons and zippers are things I think about when buying clothes. The easier the clothes are to put on, the more likely your child will want to dress on their own.

Begin when you have time. We started teaching Norrin to dress himself on the weekends when we weren’t rushing out the door. Trying to have a teachable moment when under a time constraint is never a good idea.

Give them choices. I ask Norrin what he wants to where on days when I want him to get dressed independently. If he likes what he’s going to wear, he’s more likely to put it on. It also allows him to feel in control and teaches him to make decisions.

Be PATIENT. We’ve been working on dressing skills for quite some time. Some days are easier than others. Norrin still needs guidance and prompting. But each day he gets a little bit better. And one day, I know he’ll be able to do it all by himself.

I created a 9 page activity book to help Norrin understand the steps of getting dressed. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I knew he would be able to read and trace the words. But he was also able to draw pictures of the items of clothes. I thought we’d have to cut and paste pictures. He did such a great job, I thought I’d share it with you!



Sharing is caring... Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page

More From Atypical Familia


  1. says

    This is PERFECT for my daughter and one of her OT goals at school. With summer approaching, this is on the top of our list to work on at home. Thank you for such detailed step by step directions!

    Sarah Ann-

  2. says

    May I include a link to this in a website I’m creating? It’s for parents/anyone who want to know more about autism and is a doorway to AUTISTIC voices/bloggers and neurodiversity friendly parents/professionals. The website is under construction but the facebook page (Autistikids) is up and running – full of links to the same type of posts. I can be reached at if you have any questions. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *