Friday, December 10, 2010

Mittens and Other Homemade Gift Ideas for Disabled Children and Adults

It's something most of us don't even think about when we put on our gloves on cold days. But for some disabled children and adults, finding gloves or mittens is a nightmare. The problem is that for children who have low tone or no tone in their hands, it's almost impossible to put gloves on their hands. The reason is that the fingers don't have any tone and you have to try to push each finger into the slot without the other ones falling out. It just doesn't work.
The work around is mittens. The problem with mittens is that often times their hands can be fisted and you have a similar issue in trying to put the thumb in the mitten and the rest of the fist in the mitten. The down side is that you have to find mittens that are wide enough to go over their fist since their hands can be fisted.

When Dear Son was younger, this was really challenging. I explained the situation to one of his doctors one time. She was a physiatrist (physician who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation) and who had five boys of her own. She often had practical tips as well as medical advice. When I explained my dilemma, she suggested wool socks. Brilliant! At least that's what I thought initially. I mean, when it came right down to it, I didn't want to send Dear Son to school with wool tube socks on his hands.

Instead, I just purchased larger mittens than what he'd normally need as a child. Purchasing the next size up, meant I could get the mitten over his fist. This solution worked until he became a man and then well, men don't wear mittens so they don't sell mittens for men. And thankfully so!

Some people suggested ski gloves/mittens. The problem with those is that the area that secures the wrist is typically tighter which makes them hard to get on so it really wasn't a viable solution.

As a man, I purchased gloves for him.

The down side of the gloves is that his hands are fisted so the rest of the glove just hangs down like a Halloween hand. It works but it's not great. That was until one of my blog readers offered to make Dear Son a pair of thumbless mittens. These mittens are shorter than regular mittens so they don't flop over. More importantly, all of that empty space isn't left at the end of the mitten which seems to get cold. She knitted wool, thumbless mittens, that are shorter than regular mittens but have a wider wrist band so it goes over Dear Son's hands easier. It works beautifully!

I secure the mittens to his coat with mitten clips so they don't get lost. I realize that using mitten clips on a man isn't well, manly, but we have to use a bit of common sense and do practical things when our kids are disabled.

And finally, here are picture of the new mittens on Dear Son. I tried to photograph it with his coat on but the photograph came out too dark so I think this photo shows them better. Now he has mittens that fit his hand, but don't allow a lot of the mitten to hang off and look strange. Thank you Anne for such a great solution!

I happened to mention that Dear Son's new mittens arrived when Dear Son got off the bus. I explained it to the bus driver and Dear Son's school aide (he rides the bus with Dear Son) when he got off the school bus today. The aide commented that many of the students in the classroom could use mittens like this.

So, that being said, I thought I'd suggest a few items that would be practical and helpful for severely disabled children/adults. If you sew or knit, these might be some possible gift ideas:

  • Mittens-Great for children and adults with low tone whose hands/fingers are fisted. You'll need to take their wrist measurement and their fist measurement in order to make them. In this case, my blog reader friend made Dear Son's thumbless mittens in a black washable wool. She had me take the measurements and send them to her and then asked what color I would like. I chose black since Dear Son has a green coat with black accessories.
  • Bibs-When Dear Son was a baby, he had poor head control and I needed pullover terry cloth bibs. It was nearly impossible to use bibs that tied behind his neck and as he grew older, terry cloth bibs that secured with velcro worked fine. Bibs that tied were difficult to use since the infants head rolled and moved around and also if they were floppy, meaning that the child didn't have any tone in their torso, it was hard to manage. I mean, it was tough to hold the child securely, hold their head and tie a bib around their neck. You just don't have enough hands. The reason it's helpful to make the bibs is that as they get older, the baby bibs no longer fit around their neck since they are made for babies. If your child has oral, motor issues, feeding can be messy and you need a terry cloth bib to catch any drips and to wipe their mouth. Sometimes, it's a lot to manage when they don't move or sit the way regular kids do. The only other requirement is that you make them in colors that are easy to wash. I liked white or pastels since I could pop them in the washer and not worry about them. I found bright colors like orange or red to be less desirable since I'd be worry about bleeding or finding a load of like colors. I like lighter colors too since I want to see any dirt or see if it's clean.
  • Hospital Gowns-This would be a great idea for a little girl or young boy who spends a lot of time in the hospital or who needs surgery. I am thinking about making a special hospital gown to help them get through a surgery. Maybe a little boy gets a Superman hospital gown and then gets a little prize once the surgery is done. He gets to wear the Superman gown because he's so brave. Maybe a princess hospital gown for a little girl and when she comes out of surgery, she gets a little star that velcros and fits in the pocket. It's all about doing a little something to cheer them up and help them feel special and a little brave when they are scared. You'll want to make sure the shoulders snap on and off so it's not difficult to remove with IVs , etc. and you'll want to make sure the gown is washable and won't bleed when it washes. As a mother, I know these gowns will get messy and you'll need something that can be washed in hot water and dried.
  • Capes/Ponchos-These ponchos are great for the spring, fall and winter. They come in two weights. I've seen them for spring and fall, both with a thinner fleece lining and then heavier ones for winter. The reason they are great is that often times, it can be cold trying to get the kids on/off the school bus or sometimes, when it's raining, it's nearly impossible to hold an umbrella over the wheelchair and keep the child and you from getting wet. The thing you want to do is to have the cape/poncho be able to fit around the back of the chair and be able to secure it. Snaps might work better than velcro since when you wash the cape/poncho, you don't want the velcro sticking to the other clothes. I understand there are patterns for this type of thing but since I don't sew, I am not the person to ask. For color, I always prefer a cape that matches or goes with the wheelchair. For example, Dear Son's wheelchair is green and black so I try to purchase his outwear in green or black to match.

So the bottom line is that when looking at gifts for the holidays, don't forget that homemade gifts can really make difference for special needs/disabled children and adults. If you don't know of any children, but would like to make some, contact your local school and ask for the special needs teacher. I am certain they would love to have some mittens for these kids.

And finally, thank you Anne for such a lovely gift for Dear Son. The mittens are just perfect and look just wonderful!


Canucker said...

Love this blog, Sue! Winter was often a challenge to keep Joe warm.

As you pointed out, a winter cape is great for someone in a wheelchair. I ordered one for Joe from a company in British Columbia, Canada called "Discovery Trekking". At that time, they were making many items for the disabled. I am not sure if they still are doing the winter capes, but are still carrying an adapted swim suit and they were always open to do special orders.

Their website is at:

They do ship to the States and their items are quite reasonably priced for made-to-measure clothing.


Anonymous said...

For larger teen and adult sizes (in manly styles no less), for mittens, it's worth trying an outdoor adventure store like REI or in Canada, Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC). (they also have online stores to save a trip out) They usually have adult to large adult size and styled mitts because they are warmer than gloves under truly cold outdoor conditions. Of course, homemade ones are awesome for their own reasons!


Anne K. said...

What a joy to see these mittens on Dear Son's dear hands! I am so thrilled that they fit and do the trick. They were really fun to make, and if anyone wants the knitting instructions, they can feel free to e-mail me.

I must say again that this is an issue that never would have occurred to me. Most of us just get cold this time of year and slip on gloves - done! You do so much to open our eyes to the things that just aren't as simple for these precious children or their parents. And for those of us who enjoy sewing and knitting, it's so easy to custom-make some simple solutions.

Merry Christmas to you and to Dear Son, and here's to snug and warm hands for all! :-)

Eileen said...

Another chapter for the book, Dream Mom!

Corinn said...

Oh, the custom mittens are awesome!

I was really dismissive of Snuggies--please, that's what bathrobes are for!--until I learned that they were invented for people in wheelchairs. Yay for creative crafters!

Gloria said...

Wow, wasn't that just wonderful of that lady Anne to make these for your son??? What an angel to give this gift to you. I wish I knit, I'd make some for him too! Well, Anne gets lots of Jesus points for this! :) Glad to hear that your dear son's hands are nice and warm now.

Anonymous said...

Places that sell things for adults in assisted living situations generally sell bibs (as well as some other helpful things for disabled kids!). Here's one example:

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