It feels difficult to admit, even though many kids with autism haven’t mastered this skill.
After years of practice and frustration and occupational therapy appointments and finger strengthening exercises and learning about bunny ears and loops and reading books about shoe tying and watching videos about alternate ways to tie shoes, I surrender.
I think we’ve been led to believe that people who can’t tie their shoes aren’t practicing or trying hard enough. Or maybe they’re not smart enough.
None of that is true for people with autism – at least, not in my experience. Coordinating the shoelaces and where they need to go and when is a challenge. Toss in dexterity problems and lack of hand strength and it becomes a perfect storm.
Isaac can tie the belt on his robe. He can tie the overflowing kitchen trash bag and take it outside. Noah can do those things, too. Shoes are more difficult.
Noah worked with his associate in elementary school for months to learn how to tie his shoes. It was something Chris and I wanted him to learn to do independently. I sent an extra pair of shoes (with laces!) for Noah to wear during PE class.
The good news is that he learned how to tie them. I was really proud of him, and he was proud of himself.
The bad news is that it took him a long time to tie his shoes, and they weren’t tight enough. When he walked about 50 yards, they came untied. Then he spent five minutes tying his shoes again. This wasn’t the best use of his time in PE class or in the hallways. It also caused his anxiety to soar sky high, even though he didn’t show it at school.
By the end of the year he had mastered the art of slipping his foot into a shoe that had already been tied.
For years we bought shoes with Velcro for our boys. That wasn’t always easy, either. After searching high and low, often we discovered Velcro shoes had to be special ordered because they weren’t in stock – not in the bigger size we needed.
Why? Most older kids can tie shoes.
A few years ago when their feet grew into men’s sizes, only one option existed: shoes with laces.
I almost went into cardiac arrest.
What were we going to do? Would my boys wear slip-ons for the rest of their lives?
I asked the salesperson at the shoe store what she recommended, and she pointed us towards the display of elastic shoelaces that look like skinny curly fries. We bought them and used them for a few years. I find them difficult to put in and adjust. They worked okay until the curly part of the laces inevitably straightened and frayed. Occasionally they broke. Then I’d rush to the shoe store to buy replacements.
Life changed when I discovered Hickies, the no-tie shoelace replacement. (Thanks to my friends, Sarah & Chris, for posting pictures of these gems on Facebook. Their son has difficulty tying his shoes, too.)
Other possible slogans I’d like to recommend:
If You’ve Never Tied Your Sneakers Even Though You’ve Tried A Million Times, These Are For You
If Snails Beat You in a Shoe Tying Race, Try These
Watch the 35 second video here on the Hickies website.
Or watch this video to learn more:
See Isaac & Noah's shoes with the Hickies?
They can be used for a regular, tight, or loose fit -- or a combination, depending how they are installed.
They’re $15 for a package (one package should be more than enough for one pair of shoes) and can be purchased on Amazon. They also sell a smaller, less expensive shoelace replacement system for kids ages 5-12 called Doohickies. (Isn’t that adorable?)
Testimonials from athletes and trainers who are involved in CrossFit, Parkour, and other extreme sports programs can be found on the company’s website.
“I like them because I don’t have to tie my shoes. They’re a big time saver," said Noah.
Isaac will wear them, which is testimony enough, as far as I’m concerned.
I love that they’re waterproof, easy to install, they wear well, and they’re fun to talk about. It’s nice having a few extras in case we need them, too. Noah came home from school with one of his Hickies missing. (How did that happen?) No problem. I quickly replaced it with an extra.
There are plenty of people with unique needs – young and old – who could benefit from having Hickies in their lives and in their shoes.
My 14-year-old twins can’t tie their shoes. I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t really matter. We found another way to make life work for us. We found Hickies.