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How 'Rocket Laces' Helped My Son with Autism Tie His Shoes


After 10 years of trying, my son learned to tie his shoes with ease.

My 14-year-old son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 5, and learning self-help skills has been a challenge. His fine motor control is limited, but through much hard work with my husband, his therapists and myself he has grasped some skills. He can zip up his jacket — despite being irritated by the feeling of the zipper touching his chin when fully zipped. He learned to brush his teeth with little guidance, and can independently fasten some larger buttons. But despite all of our efforts and his will to learn, he couldn’t tie his shoes.

He understood the steps, and with hand-over-hand prompting he was able to occasionally complete some of the steps, but the floppiness of the shoelaces made it difficult. He would always choose shoes that had laces, but I would have to double knot them before sending him to school, and even then he would still come home with untied shoelaces.

Peter learning to tie his shoes
Peter learning to tie his shoes

When he was 13, early in the school year he began wearing his Crocs to school. I suspected that it was due to him not being able to tie his shoes, and worried he had been teased for not being able to tie his untied sneakers. I didn’t want him to feel different than his peers at school, so I never got him Velcro straps. I always let him wear whatever shoes he wanted, and for the first time he began choosing his slip-ons over the sneakers he had always loved.

RESOURCES FROM AUTISM VILLAGE

One day, a friend whose child is also on the spectrum asked if my son still needed help with his shoelaces. She had read an article here on The Mighty about “Rocket Laces” and how they were a brilliantly designed shoelace created to teach kids how to easily tie their shoes. The best part of the laces was that they weren’t an alternative to shoelaces. Instead, they are regular shoelaces with a wire-like stiffness, which allows the learner to accomplish every step without the frustration of having to hold floppy shoelaces. I was anxious to try them. I ordered them at SprinkCreative.com.

The day they arrived in the mail, I couldn’t wait for my son to get home from school. By the time he got home, I had already laced a pair of basketball shoes that he would only wear when someone was around to help him. I sat at the table and went over the steps, one at a time, loop-de-loop, over and under. On about his 6th attempt, he was so amazed with himself. I couldn’t hold back tears of joy as he slipped into both shoes and tied them over and over again. From now on, with Rocket Laces he will be able to wear any shoe he wants to school without worry. I hope Rocket Laces can give every child with fine motor challenges the opportunity to wear any shoes they desire.

The Mighty is asking the following: What was one moment you received help in an unexpected or unorthodox way related to disability, disease or mental illness? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


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