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Children and young people with hemiplegia, just like any other children, vary in their desire for independence.
If your child wants to dress him or herself from an early age, you should encourage them to do so. It is often tempting to help, particularly when in a hurry, and this can become a habit, so it is very important to allow extra time for daily routines.
It is more difficult when a child is perfectly happy to let someone else dress them, and can see no point in trying if someone else can do it better than them. Sometimes it is worth enlisting the help of a physio or occupational therapist (OT) to try and motivate your child. They can do this by setting small attainable goals and helping with sequencing by breaking down the task into smaller parts.
Many children have emotional and behavioural problems or problems with short term memory. A professional can get them dressing independently sooner than a parent or carer attempting it on their own. At nursery or school, well-meaning teachers and helpers and a lack of time can get in the way of independence, but you can talk this problem over with them.
Keep everything, particularly tops, as big as possible. When putting on tops, put the affected arm in the sleeve first. Obviously the fewer fastenings to close, the better. Jumpers and sweatshirts are better than cardigans (but make sure the hole for the head is not too tight). Where possible, replace buttons with poppers or Velcro. Sometimes tops can slip off the shoulder on the affected side, but tightening the cuffs may help prevent them falling off completely.
Coats, jackets, anoraks and blazers often have to have the sleeve or cuff on the affected side shortened. Toggles and poppers are easier to manage than ordinary buttons, and poppers or Velcro can be added to zipped jackets. Popper kits, which require no sewing, are available from haberdashery departments or online.
Tops and shirts can have Velcro or poppers sewn behind the front button stand or can be slipped over the head if the two top buttons are undone. Cuff buttons can be attached with elastic, so that they don’t need to be undone each time.
Mitts are easier than gloves. For older children and adults it is best to go to skiwear suppliers. To avoid losing mitts, you can use the traditional elastic threaded through the arms of your child’s coat or jacket, or you might like to try glove clips to attach the mitts to their respective cuff.
Buying clothes is easier than it used to be. Clothing ranges are available online, and not just from specialised mail order firms and catalogues, but also high street retailers and supermarket chains. This means you can avoid treks around the shops and changing rooms. However, check whether you have to pay postage on returns.
There are a number of companies selling clothes for children with disabilities. Most of these are designed mainly with wheelchair users in mind, but may be generally suitable for children with hemiplegia. See are guide Aids, equipment and adaptations for suggestions.
You can find school uniforms in traditional outfitters but also at budget retailers and supermarkets as well.
Generally, it is easier to find suitable clothes for girls – there are pinafores that can be pulled on over the head as well as pull on skirts and trousers. For boys it can be trickier, especially as they get older. Trousers should have elasticated waists, as flies are difficult to do up, as is the top clip or button. Many ranges include trousers with elasticated waists, but they also have zips and buttons and may not be designed for pulling on and off. So you may need to shop around. Pull-on trousers with false flies are available from some school outfitters.
Ties can be tied then cut at the centre-back and a section of elastic inserted so that they can be pulled on over the head, or the cut edges can be refastened with Velcro. If a plain tie is needed, many men’s clothing or suit retailers supply clip-on ties.
These can be a real problem for children with hemiplegia. They are easier to pull on if you turn them inside out and push the toe back in towards the top. It also helps if they’re slightly big and stretchy. Some children have had success with various aids. Many children find thick sports socks easiest to pull on, and if your child wears a splint they also need to be long enough to prevent rubbing.
Since children and young people with hemiplegia often have impaired balance, rubber-studded socks can help prevent them slipping over when running around with no shoes on. These are widely available from department stores.
There are many pieces of equipment that might help your child. For example, a dressing stick to hook on a coat or jacket to get it over the shoulder, pullers to attach to zips, button hooks, aids for pulling on socks or tights and Velcro strips to replace buttons. You can also improvise a zip puller by threading a doubled shoelace through the zip. Dressing aids are available in many specialist mail order catalogues.
See also our information on Shoes & shoe lacing.
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