Dressing: Adapting clothes & Techniques for Motor Limitations

The following as clothing adaptations, strategies and considerations for dressing options. In addition to putting the clothes on, it is important to remember that clothes can affect how any individual, including children, view themselves. Adaptations can be made to clothing when children are traditional clothing methods (buttons, etc) become too much of a burden. However, it is important to remember that adaptations should be as inconspicuous as possible. It should not highlight the wearer or any disability in a negative light. Choice is another aspect that is always important and motivating.

Decreased Balance or Strength

  • Sitting on the edge of the bed or on the floor
  • Try donning pants in a side-lying position to decrease the effect of gravity
  • Stand at the corner of two adjoining walls for added support
  • Sitting in a chair with arms
  • Sitting on the floor by two adjoining walls for added support
  • If the child has one side of the body weaker or tighter than the other, dress that side first.
  • If undressing, remove the weaker/ tighter side last

Dressing Considerations for a Wheelchair

Most clothing is made with the dimensions in mind for a standing position. Some clothing can be uncomfortable for an individual spending an extended time in a wheelchair. The following are suggestions and consideration for clothing that is more conducive for sitting:

  • A longer inseam so that the pants can reach the top of the shoes
  • No pockets on the back
    • Not only may this be uncomfortable, but for very extended sitting, it may cause pressure ulcers
    • Pockets on the front or thigh are accessible
  • Shirts that are not too long can keep a neater appearance
    • Tops that allow for movement
    • Pullovers vs. button-up tops
    • Materials that can stretch
      • Cottons, lycra


Adaptive materials
  • Elastic waistbands vs. zip and button
  • Stretchy material
  • Slightly looser material
  • A tab on the zipper as a pull
  • Sit on a chair or lay on the floor
  • If one side of the body is weaker or tighter, dress that side first
  • When undressing, remove the weaker/tighter side first


Adaptive materials
  • Larger hole for the head
  • Slightly looser garment
  • Flexible fabric
  • Slightly larger and looser armhole openings
  • Lay top on a flat surface with the front side down, put arms through and then flip over head, shrug shoulders to help piece fall into place
  • For a jacket, place on a flat surface with opening (zipper) facing up and tag towards tummy, place arms in and flip over head, let jacket fall into place
  • Put weaker or affected side in first, pull head over, then place other side in, with stronger side assisting weaker side


Adaptive materials
  • Buttons color different from shirt
  • Buttons sewn on loose
  • Larger buttons
  • Flatter buttons
  • Buttons can be sewn on one side with velcro placed on the other side (appearance of button-up shirt)
  • Sit for stability
  • Button most of the buttons before putting on shirt, put on shirt, then button last buttons
  • Button the bottom button on first and go up (easier for alignment)
  • Use a button hook
  • Use backward chaining


Adaptive materials
  • Zipper tabs (larger pull for zipper)
  • Hook a small item on the zip for easier pulling
  • Velcro instead of zippers
  • Sit for stability when hooking zipper together
  • Stand against wall when inserting track for stability
  • Stand to keep zipper track flat


Adaptive materials
  • Use a shoe with a wide opening so that foot can go in easier
  • Wide shoes
  • Tab at the heel to put shoe on
  • Elastic shoe laces that don’t require tying
  • Velcro closure
  • Slip-in shoes
  • Sit on a stable surface
  • Use a shoehorn to slide foot in
  • Push heel into the shoe from a sitting position to let gravity help


Adaptive Material
  • Looser socks
  • Stretchy socks
  • A sock with no set heel place, ie. tube sock
  • Sit instead of standing
  • Starts with shorter ankle socks then progress to longer socks as needed
  • Prop foot up to easily see it
  • Bend knee and point toe down to place sock on
  • Fold sock over so that toe can go in completely with ease


Dressing How-To: Tips & Tricks
Resistant Dressers
Fine Motor Skills


Schwartz, 2000