The Day I Learned How to Tie My Shoes as a Person With Autism

It may not be a big deal for some, but it was a huge milestone for me.

Often while giving talks about autism, someone asks me how autism still impacts me. While I used to be nonverbal, most of my issues today are not communication-based. They revolve around getting frightened by surprises (such as when someone comes up from behind me and puts their hands over my eyes and says “guess who”), and dealing with fine motor challenges. It’s still often difficult for me to get my tie right and to use buttons.

An example of a milestone I often share is when I was finally able to tie my shoes. It wasn’t an easy process. Years of struggling to tie my shoes led me to wearing Velcro sneakers and slip-on dress shoes. I always pushed myself though; seeing my peers accomplishing this task, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it too.

My parents helped me practice using boards with a picture of a shoe on them with shoelaces sticking out of them. I would practice the steps over and over and would take that practice to tying my own shoes. It was a great day the first time I was able to do it successfully, and I still remember that moment.

As a professional speaker, I’m often approached by parents whose kids face similar struggles. My advice is to take your time during situations like these with your loved ones. It needs to be a supportive process to make sure they don’t feel discouraged. If/when that milestone comes though, cherish it. We need positive reinforcement during these moments.

My parents were so proud of me for being able to tie my shoes that day, and when I bought new shoes that had laces on them for the first time.

I hope this is a milestone your loved ones will be able to reach in the future.

A version of this article originally appeared on

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