Steps for Teaching Shoe Tying (for RIGHT-handed child)

(If LEFT-handed, switch all of the “RIGHTS” to “LEFTS” and vice-versa)


Method developed by Kim Kemery, and modified for children with autism by Mary



*NOTE:  Always demonstrate each step and talk it through before you ask the child to try.  Also, please read all the directions and practice it first yourself to make sure that you are clear on the instructions so that you don’t confuse your child. J


Place one shoe in front of the child with the shoe pointing in the same direction as if they were putting it on their own foot.  DO NOT HAVE THEM PRACTICE WITH THE SHOE ON THEIR FOOT.


Let the shoelaces hang down at the sides of the shoe, one on each side.


Tell the child to put their LEFT hand behind their back.


Tell them to use their RIGHT hand to pick up the RIGHT shoe lace and cross it over their shoe.


Then tell the child to use their RIGHT hand to make an X with the other shoe lace.


Do this at least 5 times until they can do it without being talked through it.  Give A LOT of verbal praise and make “TA-DAH!” sounds as they master each step (only if they find this amusing, do whatever motivates your child).


Next, tell the child to take their RIGHT hand to grab the end of the lace on the RIGHT side and put it under the X (“go under the X from the front of your shoe to the back” or to make it more memorable, “the worm/snake crawls under the X and is heading for the big hole at the back of your shoe.”)


Then your child takes their LEFT hand and grabs the lace that is on the LEFT side and holds it while they grab the lace that is coming under the X with their RIGHT hand and then pulls both laces TIGHTLY (make sure they are pulling hard and are pulling straight out to the sides).


Do this step at least 5 times until they can do it without being talked through it.  LOTS MORE PRAISE!!


Next, tell the child to take their RIGHT hand and grab the RIGHT LACE where the lace touches the bottom right side of the shoe (helps them to find the right length for making the loop) and then make a medium-sized loop with the lace on the RIGHT side of the shoe and hold it against the top of their shoe with their thumb and forefinger, and the shoelace “tail” hanging down.  NOTE:  It’s very important that they hold the loop CLOSE to the top of the shoe or else it will come out too loose.


Practice making the RIGHT loop at least 5 times.  LOTS MORE PRAISE!  Don’t go on until they are holding the loop tightly against the top of the shoe (on the top of the X or the top right shoelace hole).  This step is a good place to stop on the first day of learning.  The next step is the biggie so start fresh on that the next day.  Try not to be over-anxious with teaching all the steps in one day.  Let the child enjoy their success and talk about how easy it is.  If you stop and start again another day, make sure your child can do all the preceding steps on their own before going on.


Then, tell the child to use their LEFT hand to pick up the LEFT lace (they should grab it very close to the top of the shoe, just about 1” from the top left shoelace hole) and wrap it counterclockwise around their RIGHT thumb and the loop.  NOTE:  Demonstrate this first and consider using this language: “The loop is the head.  Wrap the LEFT lace around his neck.”  *You can also do this in a clockwise direction if that is how you tie your shoes. J


Next, tell the child to take their LEFT index finger and poke the lace through the circle toward their body (or toward the back of the shoe, or toward the hole where their foot goes, whichever makes more sense to the child) in order to make the other loop, then hold it there.  NOTE:  If you wrapped the LEFT lace around the loop in a clockwise direction in the previous step, the child can use their LEFT thumb to push the lace through the circle away from their body toward the front of the shoe.


Practice this at least 5 times until they can do it without being talked through it or needing any help.  LOTS OF PRAISE!


Next, the RIGHT hand drops its loop and grabs the loop that the child is pushing through the circle.


Practice at least 5 times until they can do it without assistance.  LOTS OF PRAISE!


Finally, their LEFT hand grabs the other loop with their thumb and forefinger and they pull both loops sideways.


You can teach your child that if the loops are too big, they can pull the ends (“tails”) of the laces to make the loops smaller and then pull both loops tight again.  Congratulations!  You did it!


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Disclaimer:  Although there are many parents with comparable experiences, the information presented on this website reflects the experiences and opinions of one parent.  It is provided for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical or legal advice.  Every parent should do his or her own research and act according to his or her own circumstances.  Mary is not offering professional advice nor is she liable for damages.