Getting Our Son to Wear Shoes with Laces
Sometimes, children with autism get into ruts. They have thinking ruts and behavior ruts. Sometimes, their parents indulge the rut a long, long time.
Years ago, our daughter, Dana, taught Alan, not once, but twice, to tie lacing shoes. He refused to wear shoes with laces. We bought him slip on shoes. At the time, I reasoned that there were other things he needed to learn rather than tying shoes since his manual dexterity then was not great.
This situation continued for years. When Alan went to the bowling alley or to skate, it was so infrequent that I tied his laces for him and did not ask him to do it.
Recently, our daughter Cate and her pediatrician husband, Jim, let us know that Alan should be wearing athletic shoes when he is running. His feet would appreciate the support. Alan runs daily on the treadmill.
Last night, Alan's Dad and I talked with Alan and told him he needs to wear athletic shoes while on the treadmill. We talked about how he needs to be able to tie his laces when he goes to the bowling alley in two weeks for a birthday party. We said he wouldn't want his new friend to know he can't tie his shoe laces. We talked about a skating event coming up and also another bowling trip in the new year. With some arguing, but no meltdown, Alan went with us to get athletic shoes and brought them home.
Today, when we finished his table work, I told him he needed to bring me a shoe and show me how much he remembered from his lace tying lessons. He did and lo and behold, he remembered completely how to tie a shoe.
We went to the homeschool park day. Alan was disappointed that none of the kids he can talk to were there. He handled this disappointment well as I promised to bring him again next week and also suggested that he set up via e-mail with one friend to bring their basketballs and meet at a certain time next week. He liked that suggestion.
When we got home, he wanted to run. I told him he had to wear the athletic shoes. He put them on and tied his laces without my supervision in any way. Afterward, I asked him how he liked the new shoes. He replied, "I like them. I was being silly."
You know what, the thing that made this struggle easier was that it really wasn't much of a struggle. Getting Alan to do any flexible thinking was really hard before. Often he would melt down and pound the wall while yelling. There were no signs of melt down yesterday or today. Even with the disappointment Alan had at the park, he was not at all brittle in his behavior and he was completely able to put on the shoes and tie them without my help or cajoling.
He and we parents are at another place where there will be a leap ahead, I am certain, not just in tying shoes. He's ready for more challenges to be flexible.