Triveni Goswami Vernal
Registered Special Educator (A64010)

The skill to independently dress oneself, is another Activity of Daily Living, that requires a lot of coordination between fine motor skills, gross motor skills and even balance. If there is a challenge with even one of these elements, it can create complicate the process of gaining independence in dressing oneself.

Occupational Therapy is one branch of therapeutic intervention that plays a very significant role in honing all the elements (fine motor skills, gross motor skills and balance) required for working on the skill of dressing independently.

The Pre-requisite skills required for Dressing independently, are as follows:
1) FINE MOTOR SKILLS: Finger strength, Hand strength, Ability to grasp and push, Reach out, Pincer Grasp, Eye-hand coordination etc. These skills play an important role in buttoning, zipping and even grasping the fabric.
2) GROSS MOTOR SKILLS: Ability to reach out with arms, Bend at the waist, Squat, Sit Independently, Move one’s limbs, Cross the midline, Bilateral Integration etc.
3) SENSE OF BALANCE: Ability to stand and hold one’s posture, Awareness of one’s body with respect to the surrounding environment etc.

According to the article, “Gross Motor Skills and Getting Dressed” (, “for complete independence with dressing skills, a task analysis of dressing indicates the child must be able to:
1. reach in all directions
2. rotate the trunk and cross midline
3. bend at the waist
4. maintain sufficient postural control to allow the extremities to complete the skill
5. squat and return to standing
6. maintain balance in sitting and standing while reaching
7. stand on one foot while the other half of the body is moving
8. be aware of where the body parts are in space (ie body awareness)
9. motor plan multiple steps
10. coordinate both sides of the body and the eyes/hands to work together.”

Source of Image:

One can do several activities at home and outdoors to work on strengthening the child’s fine motor and gross motor skills, through play.


1) Tearing and crumpling paper
2) Roll and pinch play dough
3) Insert coins/spoons into thin slots
4) Use tweezers to pick balls of cotton
5) Place clothes pegs on the raised sides of a box
6) Peeling stickers
7) Threading and Beading strings
8) Finger painting
9) Dip sponge in water and squeeze out water
10) Puzzles


1) Throw and catch balls
2) Dancing
3) Hop Scotch
4) Jumping
5) Obstacle course
6) Climbing a ladder
7) Pretend Play
8) Foot ball
9) Walking on a low plank /board for balance
10) Cycling

Thus, we see that Dressing Independently comprises of establishing a smooth coordination amongst several components and we must ensure that each of these components are individually worked upon, to help the child achieve a semblance of independence. Apart from this, several kinds of adaptations can also be made to the clothes, to help the individual dress independently. Adaptations may include using Velcro instead of buttons/zips, using a coloured, and raised piece of fabric attached to the inner side of a shirt/t shirt, such that the individual can make out the difference between the front and back of the clothing etc. The ultimate aim for us, is to create accessible and adaptive clothing for the child, so as to make the process of dressing, stress free and happy for them, thus providing them a sense of confidence and independence.


Author Triveni Goswami Vernal

Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum.

Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal

“Flowers in a Purple Vase”
Acrylic Painting on canvas

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