Hesperian Health Guides

Positions for Dressing

Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. A gift of just $5 helps make this possible!

Make a giftMake a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.


HealthWiki > Disabled Village Children > Chapter 37: Dressing > Positions for Dressing


Try dressing the child in different positions, to see what works best.

Body position is especially important when dressing a child with spastic cerebral palsy. Often his body tends to bend stiffly backward if he is dressed lying on his back. It often works better to dress a child with spasticity with his body and hips bent forward.
A bad position:
(child’s body stiffens backward)
A good position:
a child being dressed on his back: his body stiffens backward and hand bends tightly.
Hand bends tightly.
a child being dressed face down on a woman's lap, with hips bent.
face down over lap
hips bent
For changing that needs to be done face-up, try putting a firm pillow under the head, and keep knees and hips bent. This may help the baby relax and not stiffen up. Lying on the side is often a good position for a child with spasticity who is beginning to dress himself. He may need to roll from one side to the other to pull on clothes — but he should keep his knees, hips, and head bent to avoid stiffening.
a child lying with his head on a pillow and hips and knees bent.
knees bent
head up
a child on his side with head forward and knees and hips bent.
head forward
knees and hips bent


To help the child dress while sitting, be sure he is in a steady position. You can help him keep his hips bent and body forward like this. If balance when sitting is still not good, or if the child tends to stiffen backward, try sitting in a corner to dress. Sitting with the feet forward and knees apart is a good position for play and dressing. If legs press together stiffly, try pushing the knee out gently while you press under the big toe. DVC Ch37 Page 334-7.PNG
illustration of the above: steadying the child from behind while he sits and dresses.
first with help
then alone
a child sitting in a corner and dressing alone.
When a child with athetoid cerebral palsy tries to raise her arms or to speak, her feet may come off the ground or her legs spread.

Try pressing down over the knees, keeping them together. Or press on top of the feet.
DVC Ch37 Page 334-8.PNG
Help the child find the position that allows the best control for dressing.
DVC Ch37 Page 334-9.PNG DVC Ch37 Page 334-10.PNG DVC Ch37 Page 334-11.PNG


This page was updated:19 Jan 2018