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5 Tips for Helping Your Child with Special Needs Tie Their Shoes!

For those of you with neurotypical children often tying a shoe comes fairly easy with a bit of practice. For my children who have special needs, tying a shoe proved to be QUITE complicated yet it is an important Adaptive Skill! Adaptive skills are essential for a child to master in order to be a successful adult. Adaptive skills are defined as practical, everyday skills needed to function and meet the demands of one’s environment, including the skills necessary to effectively and independently take care of oneself and to interact with other people. 

All of my children have sensory issues. Just getting shoes on my children proved to be a challenge! LOL Then there are issues with fine motor skills. All of my children have poor fine motor skills along with poor visual-spatial and visuomotor skills. Each of these issues further complicates what should be a simple task! When I understood all my children’s disability issues it made sense that the first of my surviving quadruplets did not tie her shoes until she was seven (7) years old! My son was finally able to tie his shoes at nine (9) years old, and my other son, with the greatest impairments, just got how to tie his shoes this year at eleven (11)! This post will give you 5 great tips to help your child learn to tie their shoes.

***Affiliate links included for Amazon products to help you with your shoe-tying endeavors!***

Tips for Helping to Tie Shoes

Tip #1

Practice, Practice, Practice! One of the best ways to help your child learn to tie their shoe is to practice over and over again. I would try out a few different methods to help your child tie their shoes. Once you have tried a few methods then ask your child with the method they like best. Then focus on that method. The next few tips focus on various shoe tying methods.

There is some fine-motor-skills work you can try at home to help your child master shoe tying. You can use something like Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wood Lacing Sneaker toy, an old shoe at home, or even an egg carton (make sure to wash hands after use) to practice shoe lacing and tying of the shoelaces. Besides fine motor skills, other Occupational Skills needed for shoe tying are postural stability, sequencing, motor planning, bilateral coordination, length of the laces, the texture of the laces, visual attention, and visual perception. Each of these skills is needed to tie shoelaces properly so if your child is older and still having issues with tying their shoes you may want to have your child evaluated by an occupational therapist in these other skill areas.
Tip #2
Depending on your child’s difficulties, they can have minor issues from tying their shoes to having MAJOR issues getting ready in the morning! If your child has a issues with fine motor skills, or like my kids, have visuomotor and/or visual-spatial skills making it difficult for them to follow along with where the shoestring is going, then maybe this would be a great trick to try since you do not lose or mix up the end of the laces.
Tip #3
If your child has better visual-motor skills then you can try one of the commonly used methods to have children tie their shoes with this method to thread a shoestring through a loop.

After a bit of hunting, I found some cool bi-colored laces that are similar to the ones in the video. The nice thing about the two different colored laces is that it helps your child to visually keep track of what they are doing with the laces on the left and right side of the shoe. The Easy Tie Shoe Laces are bi-colored and come in a variety of colors with a good rating on Amazon. I also found some other laces, Bi-Colored Tyes (shoelace), that were bi-colored and highly rated.

Tip #4
If your child has minimal fine motor and visual-motor issues they may appreciate this shoe-tying trick that allows a child to not only tie their shoe super fast but also be able to make a good solid knot!
Tip #5

Don’t sweat the small stuff! As a parent of multiple children with disabilities, I have found there are often bigger worries in my life than if my children can manually tie their shoe. As I said, there have been times it has been hard to get shoes on my kids so I was happy if they had anything at all on the bottom of their feet! I wanted my children to learn to tie their shoes so I was not having to tie three sets of shoes before heading out the door! When my children were toddlers I would have to start getting them ready to head out the door an HOUR before we needed to leave the house, to then drive to the appointment, all because my children lacked adaptive skills including shoe tying. Now there are SO many great products out on the market including a lot of great options for older children so they no longer HAVE to wear Velcro shoes!

There seem to be basically three major styles of alternative lacing systems versus manually tying your shoes.
Lock Laces
Lock Laces
The first one is what I call the bungee-cord, or lock lace, version. This one works well and looks like shoelaces you often see on athletic shoes. Lock Laces are a stylish way to dress up your shoes and skip the frustration of trying to tie shoelaces! Since Lock Laces come in 12 colors it is likely you will find a pair that will look nice with your child’s shoes! There is another honorable mention in this category, Stout Gears, also seems to offer a nice bungee-cord-like system but at a slightly cheaper price than Lock Laces so they are worth a look.
HOMAR No Tie Shoelaces for Kids and Adults
HOMAR No Tie Shoelaces for Kids and Adults
The second major type of shoelace I noticed was a rubber-band-like lace. These from HOMAR are great because they look like they are bar-laced shoes. Straight bar-lacing is often seen on shoes like Vans or Converse. So this style will help an older child fit in with their peers. Another honorable mention in this section is the Xpand No Tie Shoelaces System with Elastic Laces. This system is rated super high on Amazon, it comes in 54 colors, and it seems like a great system; however, the reason it was not my main pick is that the clips could be hidden for their shoe system IN the shoe but my sensory children would NEVER tolerate that. Just knowing it is there would cause them to reject wearing the shoe. You can wear the clip on the outside of the shoe but I do not those are as discrete as the HOMAR laces. If your child is not super sensory then I would look to buy the Xpand.
The last type of alternative lacings are interesting.
Zubits Authentic Magnetic Lacing Solution
Zubits Authentic Magnetic Lacing Solution
One I think would be good for a child with weak hand strength and poor motor control and that is Zubits Authentic Magnetic Lacing Solution. These are well rated and come in six (6) colors. I will admit I have not tried these out with my son yet but I do want to see about getting a pair. He did recently learn to tie his shoes but with his weak hand strength and the fact he does not like his shoes to fit too tight across his foot I think this could provide him with a nice solution to be able to put on his shoes faster.
Caterpy Laces
Caterpy Laces
The second type would require better hand strength to pull the strings but they would stay where they are adjusted and this could help take pressure off the top of the foot. Caterpy Laces do look a bit odd and that is worrisome. It is good to make sure this will not be an issue with your child’s peers where they are teased but these are interesting laces. They come in 17 different colors including camouflage and can be another good alternative to tying traditional shoelaces.

I hope this post has been helpful. Shoe tying is an important adaptive skill for your child to learn. Issues with shoe tying, dressing, or other fine motor tasks can be addressed with occupational therapy. Occupational therapy in the educational setting (school) can work on these skills along with a medical occupational therapist (therapy using your medical insurance).  I hope I supplied you with useful information on how to solve the dilemma of your child struggling to tie their shoes. Please take the time to click on the links in the post as it contains the reference material used to write this post along with affiliate links to products that may be of interest to you. As always, you are welcome to join us for more discussion on shoe tying, adaptive skills, and/or occupational therapy in the educational setting at our FB group, IEP/504 Assistance for parents of public school students from all over the United States. 
AESA also runs a special needs homeschool group, Homeschooling Special (Needs) Kids, and we also have a group for all parents and caregivers of special needs children called Special Needs Parenting Advice and Support where we discuss ALL things related to special needs care and Educating Gifted Children is where we discuss topics concerning gifted children and those that are twice exceptional (2e).  I hope to see you there! 

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