Dressing & Clothing Management
Independent living skills are the activities people perform, according to their abilities, which enable them to manage their homes and personal lives. The development of independent living skills is important to all students and particularly with students who are blind and visually impaired.
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By: Carmen Willings
Updated April 7, 2020
Independence in dressing is an important skill for everyone including individuals who are blind or visually impaired. It may take longer to master these skill but it is essential to encourage independence and avoid the urge to do the task for the person in a rush to complete the activity. It is also important for the individual to develop clothing management skills.
Dressing skills can be taught best through hand-under-hand support and from behind the student, in order to guide the student’s hands in a natural pattern. It is ideal to practice dressing skills at natural times of the day (removing coat in the morning, taking shoes off/on before/after trampoline play, putting on/removing smock, etc.). Encourage the student to assist in dressing and undressing if clothes are soiled and need to be changed. Dressing time is a natural time to teach body image skills and spatial awareness concepts. It is also a natural time to talk about types of clothing and different fasteners. Discuss likes and differences in personal belongings.
All activities involved in dressing tasks will promote independence in additions to developing finger dexterity and upper body strength. This includes pulling up a zipper after it is started, pushing a large button through a buttonhole and pulling up pants to name a few. Other important dressing skills include the ability to coordinate clothing, determine if it is appropriate for the weather, determine if it is appropriate for the situation (ex. type of work, leisure, social occasion, etc.) Students may need extra help in learning how to orient their clothing.
Students will need to learn methods for marking their clothes to make it easier to identify and select them. There are methods that can be used for braille readers as well as non-braille methods.
Braille readers can use braille labels to mark their clothing, enabling them to match articles. Braille tags are commercially available and can make identification easy. These tags are small metal tags that have color words and pattern words. The tags can be sewn onto the tag or the inside seam of the clothing. The tags may irritate the skin so it may help to sew them to the bottom hem as long as they are concealed. Alternatively, a label can be made by brailling on durable, but not too thick, plastic.
For non-braille readers, buttons of different shapes can be used to match items or a certain shape can represent a color. The button, like the braille tags, can be sewn in the inside hem of the shirt. Iron-on tape is another method of labeling clothes. Cut the tape into various shapes and have a system for matching shapes similar to the button method.
Dresser Drawer Organization
Keeping clothing organized is an important skill for students to learn. When setting up the student's drawers, it may be easier to designate drawers for particular kinds of clothing.
Encourage independence by expecting the student to hang up and retrieve his or her own coat on a hook. Teaching students how to hang clothes on a hanger can be particularly challenging. One possible method is to lay the article flat on a surface such as a bed and then insert the hanger into the shoulders. Demonstrate how the top button can be buttoned to keep shirts from slipping off the hangers. Hooks and bars in a high contrast can be purchased or painted for students with low vision. Tactual cues can be used to identify a student’s hook or a plastic separator can be placed and a tactual label can be placed on bars to group similar clothing. Take advantage of commercially available clothing organizers and pair with labels to help the student maintain the organization. Incorporate matching skills by matching and storing shoes in shoe boxes and hanging shoe holders.
Encourage students to be a part of the cleaning and ironing process, keeping safety in mind. Students should be taught how to examine clothing for spots and smells to ensure they are clean and fresh. If your school has the facilities, teach students how to sort laundry according to washing needs, load a pile of clothes into a washing machine, set the dial, add detergent, transfer clothes from washing machine to the dryer, and operate the dryer. Laundry cleaning supplies can be labeled in large print, tactual markers or braille as well as the settings on the washer and dryer.
Provide hand under hand assistance when introducing the skill, and fade assistance as the student becomes more comfortable and independent. One way of labeling the dials is to add a Bumpon blister or to create a template that fits over the dial. Transparent markers are necessary so sighted peers or staff can still read the markings. It's easier to just mark the basic settings.
Shopping for Clothes
If a student is concerned about keeping up with the latest trends and styles, encourage them to discuss trends with friends or family, particularly those who have the same interests and/or tastes.
Sock Locks are GREAT for keeping like colored socks together when doing laundry! It can be difficult for students with low vision to have a difficult time discriminating blues and blacks and other similar shades as well as for students who are blind.
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