How Do You Get An Autistic Child To Keep Their Shoes On?

Today you’ll learn how to get an autistic child to keep their shoes on and much more.

steven zauderer
Steven Zauderer
September 20, 2023
min read

How Do You Get An Autistic Child To Keep Their Shoes On?

Children with autism often have problems figuring out how to tie their shoes.

This mostly stems from difficulties in motor skills.

Resulting from this can be lots of stress and even catalyze eventual meltdowns.

They may wind up resisting the wearing of certain shoes altogether. 

Encouraging an autistic child to wear shoes without taking them off might be a hard thing to achieve for some parents.

Getting good socks to go with the shoes

Autistic kids that have problems with the senses are sometimes very sensitive to the touch, particularly along the edges of the socks. This can be one of the reasons a child may react poorly to wearing certain shoes.

Seamless socks might be more comfortable for them, giving them relaxation and decreasing sensory problems as they walk.

Some socks brands sell pairs with this in mind, harboring toes with no seams and material that isn't sensitive to the touch. 

The bottom might also be skid-resistant feature loops that'll help them pull up on the material. Materials like bamboo, silk, and cotton might also help with the sensory problems in their feet.

Using something other than laces

Shoes that have laces and buckles may feel unreasonably tight to an autistic child, which may keep them from wearing shoes harboring such attributes. Fastening with hooks and loops might be easier for them since it'll give them more freedom to decide how tight or loose they want the shoe to be.

To prevent assistance with typing, parents should consider taking off the traditional laces and using something that locks them off with less effort.

Gauging the shoe correctly

Children's shoes must be the correct size, regardless of the child wearing them. Tight shoes tend to hurt more and can lead to foot problems as they get older.

Some kids prefer sneakers that are higher at the ankle due to giving them a sense of security, though others may like low-tops for more freedom in movement. Wider shoes or alternatives like sandals with a loose fit might suffice, though this isn't advisable for kids going to school.

Shoes made for special needs

Shoes built for special needs kids are sometimes called adaptive footwear.

A kid with autism can walk better with such shoes, in most cases. They give better comfort and are much easier to wear, take off, and tighten to preference. They're also wide and have straps with better adjustments, involves that come off, and adjustable tabs.

Considering orthotics

Sometimes, a child's issue may not be their autism but the way their bones are shaped in the feet. This is known as musculoskeletal problems.

A podiatrist should be contacted if this is the suspected case, whereby an assessment to find gait or other imperfections is detected. Orthotics might be given, where they'll later give parents soles that offer better support for the feet than a conventional pair.

Shopping for shoes

Visiting a shoe store with someone diagnosed with autism might be hard to do. Autistic kids exhibit trouble when someone touches them and may find the entire experience a bit too much. These may cause anxiety and morph into even more unwanted behavior.

Being able to predict things is preferable for kids with autism. When knowing what happens in situations, helps them to deal with it better. Therefore, a child should be prepared for a visit to the shoe store prior.

A discussion about the event is good, along with having them view photos of the store's layout. The more aware they are about what to expect at the store, the better off they'll be when they visit.

Another helpful tip is for parents to make up stories about the store.

This will further help them in understanding what goes on and how shoes will be fitted to them in the buying process. It is also a good idea for the child's feet to be measured. This could be what turns a potentially unpleasant trip into a pleasant one. A tape measure is one way for parents to achieve this.

The ideal time to visit a shoe store with such children is at a time when it's relatively calm. This could be in the morning or during lunchtime. Weekdays might be better, especially for kids that have a difficult time with large crowds.

Buying more than one pair is advised. At least three or four pairs must be checked. If the child becomes agitated, having them try the shoes on at home could work, so long as parents are such that the fit is good. If anything feels like a poor fit to them, those shoes can be returned later on.

Certain smells, touches, or noises could trigger a child in a shoe store.

Having them wear headphones might help, especially for kids that dislike high-volume audible sounds.

Sunglasses might also help kids with light sensitivity or even a cap with a visor. Be sure that they have something to occupy their time with while on the way to the store, during the fitting, and after payment is made. A favorite toy that's portable could work.

Another activity they consider fun is a good way to get an autistic child to behave in this scenario. It can motivate them to be on their best behavior. Small rewards are the alternative, is it significant praise when efforts are made by them to remain calm?

Why Autistic Children Have a Hard Time with Wearing Shoes

Kids with autism have a hard time wearing shoes due to the following reasons:

  • Sensory problems - For autistic individuals, it's straightforward to feel discomfort. Even certain materials can feel poorly and cause agitation.
  • Pain in the foot - This can sometimes be caused by injury from wearing a previous pair of shoes. Children are constantly growing and must have their feet monitored when more significant, wider shoes are needed. Bone growth could be a major contributor.
  • General frustration - Problems tying shoes, tucking in laces, and impatience in the process can lead to tantrums and feelings of not being in control of themselves.

Best Shoes For Your Autistic Child

Pediped manufactures shoes that assist in a child's ability to move at different angles. They're made with their growth in mind and may last longer than a regular pair of sneakers.

Stride Rite is another, having wide sizes, flexible soles, and fasteners that hook instead of needing to be tied.

Other brands are easier to adjust to, like Sketcher, Tsukihoshi, and Billy Footwear. All three models have shoes either made with straps, zippers, or laces that aren't required to be tied.

steven zauderer

CEO of CrossRiverTherapy - a national ABA therapy company based in the USA.

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