Helping your child tie their shoe laces

One of the things that frustrates both my boys on the autism spectrum for different reasons is tying their shoelaces.

My eldest boys’ issue is dexterity while the younger boy just isn’t motivated and both prefer shoes and trainers with no laces.

Learning to tie your shoelaces independently is a big milestone in any child's life. As children begin school, tying their shoelaces becomes a part of the daily routine. However, learning to tie your shoes is a complex motor task that involves coordination, motor planning, sequencing, fine motor strength and dexterity. It is not surprising that children on the autism spectrum can become frustrated easily when learning this new skill.


Tying shoes some tips

I’d like to share with you some tips I have come across which may help you and your child.

The first thing to remember is practice, practice and practice again.

Step 1

You want to get one of their shoes and then use two different coloured laces. We need two different colours because we’re going to give a lot of verbal cues such as cross red over yellow and yellow into red.

 Step 2

The shoe should not be placed on the child’s foot when they’re first learning, but instead be placed on the table, but the shoe should be placed on the table facing away from the child. As it would be if the shoe were on their own foot.

 Step 3

Then you want to write down the steps of your shoe tying procedure. And with each step, we want to limit it to five words or less. For example,  cross red over yellow, yellow into red, pull strings tight, make a loop. It is also useful to also use a visual aid as you explain these actions.

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Step 4

We want to not only have the shoe facing out but if you’re teaching the child you don’t want to be sitting on the opposite side of the table. Stand behind the child, or at least to the side. But if you’re going to give any kind of physical prompting, you really do want to stand behind your child and give them  gentle prompting and encouragement.

Step 5 

Why don’t you video this exercise on your phone and show it back to your child and talk them through how they did.

I hope these help and I wish you luck. We are still on the journey and If all else fails you can do what we have done for years and resort to shoes without laces!

I have added a couple of videos showing how other parents have helped their children learn to tie their laces on the resources section of the site. You can see them here