Our journey in the Autism Spectrum

We pick our battles here at Rabinowitz Manor. New concepts and skills are generally not well-received or readily accepted.  “New”, “different” and “change”,  well them thar’s fightin’ words! I’ve developed categories for deciding what battles to pick, when to pick them, which skills need to be learned and when to work on them.

I am learning to think ahead, plan my strategy, and wait…and nudge…and wait…and nudge.

After the first of this year things had been going well and Henry’s fine motor skills have come a long way.  His writing has really improved!  So, why not give those fine motor skills a challenge? I found a pair of cheap, laced sneakers. At the same time I also purchased a pair of Star Wars light-up shoes with velcro. Those were the perfect “reward” for learning to tie laces. And for the record, both pairs of shoes were on a really good sale in case this  didn’t go so well and Henry outgrew them before we even started.

I week or so before even buying the shoes, I announced to both Henry and Lucy that probably we should start to learn how to tie laces. (I found a similar deal for Lucy’s shoes only her “reward” was sparkly princess shoes.) This announcement was met by some mild protest from both. I let it go.

Once I had the shoes in-hand and showed them to the kids they were a bit more enthused until I presented them with “the deal”:

“When you learn to tie these shoes,”

” then you’ll get these shoes.”

Instantly there were loud protests to this deal immediately followed by attempts by Henry to negotiate a better deal. Nope. No negotiation.  The reward shoes were placed at the top of their closets and the laced sneakers were left out…and untouched for weeks and weeks. Keep in mind that Henry still had his old (and falling apart) velcro sneakers that he could choose to wear.

Occasionally, I would nudge and would get them to at least watch me tie the shoes and give some minimal effort into their trying. My son does not like to fail. He can be easily frustrated. We worked with him just enough so he felt like he was getting it. And then let it go once more.

Next, we added it in to his homework chart. If he worked on tying his shoes for 5 or 10 minutes, that could go towards him earning a homework sticker. This worked. For while.

Finally, after several weeks of this and his old shoes were really looking tired and worn out (and I was beginning to worry he’d outgrow the new ones), I said, “Henry, today is the day you tie your shoes!”

Much screeching protest by Henry! I went into my no-nonsense-matter-of-fact-suck-it-up-and-just-do-it Mom mode.

“Henry you CAN tie your shoes. You know how to do it!”

“But mom I can’t do it so well!”

“You just have to practice by doing it over and over. So, that’s what you’re going to do now.”

More whining, screeching and yelling from Henry but he put the laced shoes on. At every point I was having to encourage him to keep trying and keep on it. He only needed a little help and reminder about the loops.

This is a good place to note that I am NOT one of those cutesy moms that make a song or a story to help ease the difficulty of the learning process. Nope.  Here’s how you do it.  I’ll help you.  Now practice yourself.

It’s not always fun or pretty but I can get the job done!

He was about ready to give up and meltdown. “Henry, think about what it looks like in your mind. Can you see how to do it there?”

“Yeah, mom, I think I can see it.”

“Okay, now hold the laces and move your fingers like you see it in your head.”

Then I untied them and he did it over a few times until he did the whole process by himself.

When he realized that he had done it all by himself he got the biggest smile on his face! It was awesome! For a couple of weeks he wore only these shoes and kept getting better and better at tying them. Once we knew he had it down we gave him the Star Wars shoes!

And because sometimes I am a mom that pushes things…we’ve had a couple of wet days here recently and so brought out the laced shoes so the Star Wars shoes wouldn’t get muddy.  And don’t you know, he didn’t protest at all. He put those shoes on and tied them right up! We’re still working on that double-knot thing but still I’m so proud of my little dude!

Henry demonstrates his shoe-tying skills!


Comments on: "Shoe-tying on the Spectrum 101" (5)

  1. One Tired Mama said:


  2. I actually found the answer to the tying issue (my son will be 6) I found U-Laces. They turn any tied shoes into slip ons 🙂 This is one battle right now my lil man is not yet ready for, lol

  3. Thank you for this article…shoe tying s something that we just kinda overlook…he has slip ons and even when he does wear lace ups they are never ever tied….i may just try this…

    • I think of it as a “bonus skill”; something to try to work on but certainly it’s not a do-or-die-need-to-have-skill to make it in this world! 😉

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