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How to break down a dressing task using the backward chaining method

What is the backward chaining method?

It’s a way of breaking down a task into smaller, simple steps. Start with the last step in the task and work backwards to the beginning.

How to help your child with a dressing task

Start the task and ask the child to complete it. This rewards the child for finishing the task.

Break it down into the steps below. Initially, the child will complete step 6, then gradually completes steps 5 and 6, then 4, 5 and 6 and so on.

Example: removing a t-shirt

Step 1

With the dominant hand, hold on to the cuff of the sleeve of the other hand.

Step 2

Keeping hold of your cuff, pull your arm out of the sleeve.

Step 3

Adjust grasp as necessary and bring your arm down beside your trunk.

Step 4

Grasp your other sleeve with your hand that has just been undressed as in step 1.

Step 5

Keeping hold of the cuff, pull your arm out through the sleeve.

Step 6

Gather the t-shirt in your hands from the bottom, grasp it at the front of your chest and pull it up and over your head.

What to do if the child makes a mistake

Help them identify where they went wrong by:

  • allowing them to complete the entire task – ask if they can feel/identify what does not feel right
  • asking them questions to direct them to where they have gone wrong
  • asking them to identify where they went wrong by looking in a mirror
  • practicing with items they can easily identify the front or back, for example large images, logos or patterns.

Allowing your child to work out where they went wrong can improve their learning. They’ll be more likely to remember it for next time.