How to Tie your Shoes.

I hear it often. Does your disabled child know how to tie their shoes? And are they past the age of when they should be able to tie their shoes? It’s a pretty common problem.

After all, if your child struggles with fine motor coordination, sequencing, and other issues that are elements of shoe-tying, it only makes sense that tying their shoes would be a challenge for them too.

shoe tying options

There are plenty of options for kids who are having trouble learning to tie their shoes. If you are trying to teach a child how to tie shoes, you’re not alone. A recent British study said that almost half of kids under age 10 are still unable to tie their shoes.

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Is this the only OT skill they lack?

If your child cannot tie their shoes, ask yourself what other fine motor skills they might be struggling with things like buttons, zippers, and handwriting. If they are not currently receiving Occupational Therapy for this, you can ask for an evaluation.

You can do it through the school and the IEP process or you may just choose to pursue this privately and pay out of pocket or with insurance. But I have seen tying shoes and other fine motor skills listed at OT goals in an IEP.

Should I add a shoe-tying goal to my IEP?

It’s a necessary skill. And, it’s a social skill that can lead to exclusion and bullying if not mastered. Mastering this skill can lead to proficiency in other skills.

As an advocate, my answer is YES that this can/should be on the IEP if it is an identified area of need.

Options for Kids who cannot tie their shoes.

Even if you are getting this on your IEP as an OT goal, there are accommodations you can put in place while your child learns to tie their shoes.

  • Lace Anchors: Another resource for different ways of lacing and tying shoes.
  • Nike self-tying shoe: In case you hadn’t heard, Nike has developed several options of adaptive shoes. There is one called the Fly Ease and another called the Nike HyperAdapt. After watching the video on the Nike website, I kinda want them for myself. But, I guess it’s appropriate that they show professional athletes trying them out because, at $720 a pair, they are the only folks who can afford them. Will insurance pay for these self-tying shoes? That remains to be seen.

Until then, try the FlyEase, which is a bit more affordable.

YouTube video
  • Lace Locks: There are various options on the market for Lace Locks. Some of them do require a certain amount of fine motor skills because you have to pull the laces and pinch the lace lock. But it still is overall probably easier to learn than shoe tying. There’s even one that uses magnets.
Combination of elastic lace and a lock.
Combination of elastic lace and a lock.
  • Elastic Laces: Most of the elastic laces on the market also work with some type of locking system, but it’s another option.
  • 15 cool ways to tie shoes: There’s more than one way to tie your shoes, and you can view 15 different ways and one might work for your child.
  • Hickies: There are these things called Hickies that are pretty cool. I’m guessing hickie is short for “doo-hickie” and not the other kind of hickie. Odd name choice, but an interesting product.
alternative to shoe tying
Each hickie is separate, it’s not one long lace or piece of elastic.
  • Shoes that don’t have shoelaces: Thankfully there are now many better options on the market besides big white therapeutic looking things with velcro. I personally have owned several pairs of the Merrell Jungle Moc over the years and I love them. They are super comfortable and honestly, every pair that I’ve purchased for myself I have literally worn out. Another mom has recommended that you buy other types of shoes that you just tie once and then slip on and off, such as the Adidas Vulc. My 6-year-old who knows how to tie his shoes often slips his sneakers off and on without tying.
shoes that don't tie
Merrell Jungle Moc comes in a variety of colors and styles for men, women and kids.
  • Fun Shoelaces: As a mom friend told me, “Motivation is everything!” And for some kids, fun shoelaces might work as a great motivator.
colored shoelaces
  • Lacing toys: These can be used in the privacy of your own home for any age. Or, just practice on a shoe. But sometimes it’s easier to master a skill elsewhere first, then apply it. We tend to teach shoe-tying in isolation and that may not work for kids who struggle with processing–it may not make sense in their head initially to bend over and do it on their own foot, if that makes sense.
  • Zubits-Recommended to me by a parent.
  • TedX talk on how to tie your shoes: Yes, even a Ted Talk about it!
  • YouTube videos: Lots of options here. And practice, practice, practice. Hey, it took my son about 8 years to learn how to pick up a sandwich, take a bite and return it to his plate. But it happened! Ask around in parent groups, as well as teachers and the OT, see which video worked best for them.
  • Nathan Shoe Lock Laces

Good luck!

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