How Do You Get An Autistic Child To Keep Their Shoes On?
If you are a parent or caregiver of an autistic child, you may have experienced the struggle of getting your child to keep their shoes on. This can be a challenging task, but there are some strategies that can help.
Why Do Children with Autism Like to be Barefoot?
Some children with autism may prefer to be barefoot due to sensory issues. The sensation of shoes can be uncomfortable or overwhelming for them, and they may feel more in control and grounded without footwear. Additionally, some children with autism may have difficulty with fine motor skills, making it challenging to put on and tie shoes.
Therefore, opting for no shoes simplifies the process of getting dressed and ready to go out. However, it's important to note that going barefoot isn't always practical or safe in certain environments, so finding ways to make wearing shoes more comfortable for the child should still be a priority.
Understanding the Sensory Issues
Autistic children often have sensory issues that can make wearing shoes uncomfortable or even painful. It is important to understand these issues and work with your child to find a solution that works for them.
Some common sensory issues that may affect shoe-wearing include:
Hypersensitivity to touch
Some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may find the feeling of shoes on their feet to be overwhelming or uncomfortable. This is because of the sensory processing differences that are common in people with ASD. Sensory issues can make it difficult for individuals with ASD to tolerate certain textures, sounds, smells, or tastes.
It is important to understand that each child with ASD is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. Some children may benefit from wearing special socks or shoes designed to provide additional sensory input. Others may prefer to go barefoot or wear soft, flexible shoes.
Difficulty with fine motor skills
Tying shoelaces or fastening straps may be challenging for some autistic children. This can be especially frustrating for them, as well as for their parents, caregivers, and teachers. However, there are many resources available to help children with autism learn these skills.
One approach is to break down the task into smaller steps and practice each step individually. Another approach is to use adaptive devices, such as Velcro straps or elastic laces, which can make the process easier and less stressful. Additionally, occupational therapists can work with children with autism to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, which can improve their ability to tie shoelaces and fasten straps.
Need for routine
Autistic children may have a strong need for routine and may resist changes to their usual routine. This is because they find comfort in predictability and familiarity. As a result, even small changes, such as wearing different shoes, can be very distressing for them.
It's important to understand that this is not a matter of being stubborn or difficult, but rather a genuine difficulty in adapting to change. Parents and caregivers of autistic children can help by gradually introducing changes to their routine, such as wearing different shoes for short periods of time, and providing reassurance and support throughout the process.
Strategies to Encourage Shoe-Wearing
Here are some strategies that may help encourage your autistic child to keep their shoes on:
Allow your child to choose the type of shoes they wear. This can help them feel more in control and may make them more willing to wear their shoes.
Start by having your child wear their shoes for short periods of time and gradually increase the length of time. This can help them get used to the feeling of shoes on their feet.
Look for shoes that are designed for children with sensory issues. These may be made from soft, flexible materials that are less likely to cause discomfort.
If your child has difficulty with fine motor skills, practice tying shoelaces or fastening straps together. Use positive reinforcement to encourage your child's efforts.
Use visual aids
Some autistic children respond well to visual aids, such as pictures or diagrams. Use these to show your child how to put on and take off their shoes.
Use a reward system to encourage your child to wear their shoes. For example, give them a sticker or small prize for each time they keep their shoes on for a certain amount of time.
Using Compression Socks or Stockings
Compression socks or stockings can provide a snug feeling that may help some autistic children with shoe-wearing. These garments are designed to apply pressure to the legs and feet, which can improve blood flow and reduce swelling.
Some children with autism find the sensation of compression to be soothing and calming. Compression socks or stockings come in different sizes and strengths, so it's important to choose the right one for your child. It's also important to ensure that they are comfortable wearing them before trying them with shoes.
If you decide to try compression socks or stockings, talk to your child's healthcare provider first. They can recommend a specific type of compression garment and provide guidance on how long your child should wear them each day.
The Best Adaptive Shoes for Autistic Children
When it comes to choosing shoes for an autistic child, there are many options available. However, not all shoes are created equal, and some may be more suitable for children with sensory issues than others.
One type of shoe that many parents and caregivers have found helpful is adaptive shoes. These are shoes that are designed specifically for individuals with disabilities or special needs. Adaptive shoes come in a variety of styles and sizes, and they are often made from soft, flexible materials that provide additional sensory input.
Features to Look for
Some of the features to look for when choosing adaptive shoes include:
- Velcro straps or elastic laces, which make it easier for children with fine motor difficulties to put on and take off their shoes
- Soft, breathable materials that allow air circulation and prevent overheating
- Wide toe box, which provides extra room for toes to move around
- Non-slip soles, which help prevent slips and falls
- Lightweight design, which reduces fatigue during walking or running
Some popular brands of adaptive shoes for autistic children include:
- Stride Rite Made 2 Play Phibian Sneaker Sandal Water Shoe
- Nike FlyEase Shoes with Adaptive Lacing Technology
- Keen Kids' Moxie Sport MJ Shoes
- Pediped footwear's Flex line of machine-washable sneakers and Velcro sandals.
It's important to keep in mind that every child is unique and what works well for one child may not work as well for another. It's always a good idea to try on different styles of adaptive shoes to see what feels most comfortable and supportive for your child's feet.
What Are the Best Types of Socks to Wear with Shoes for an Autistic Child?
When it comes to finding the right socks for an autistic child to wear with their shoes, there are a few things to consider. Some autistic children may have sensory issues that make certain types of socks uncomfortable or overwhelming. Here are some tips on choosing the best types of socks for your child:
Soft and Seamless
Look for socks that are made from soft, breathable materials such as cotton or bamboo. These materials will be gentle on your child's skin and allow air circulation, which can help prevent overheating. Additionally, choose socks that are seamless as this will eliminate any uncomfortable bumps or ridges.
For some autistic children, compression socks can be helpful in providing a snug feeling that may help them tolerate wearing shoes. As mentioned earlier, compression socks come in different sizes and strengths, so it's important to choose the right one for your child.
There are many sensory-friendly sock options available specifically designed for individuals with sensory processing differences. These socks often have features such as extra cushioning or padding in specific areas of the foot, extra arch support, or a non-binding top. Some brands include SmartKnitKIDS Seamless Sensitivity Socks and Hanes Ultimate Boys' Ankle ComfortBlend Socks.
It's important to keep in mind that every child is unique and what works well for one child may not work as well for another. It may take some trial and error to find the right type of sock that your child is comfortable wearing with their shoes.
Making Shoe-Wearing a Fun Activity
Making shoe-wearing a fun activity can help motivate autistic children to wear their shoes. Here are some ideas to try:
Create a sensory bin or box filled with different textures, such as sand, rice, or beans. Encourage your child to explore the textures with their feet while wearing their shoes.
Put on some music and have a dance party with your child while they wear their shoes. This can help them associate wearing shoes with fun and positive experiences.
Use role play to demonstrate different scenarios where wearing shoes is necessary, such as going to the park or visiting friends. This can help your child understand why wearing shoes is important and how it can make certain activities more enjoyable.
Let your child decorate their own pair of shoes using stickers, markers, or paint. This can help them feel more invested in their footwear and may make them more willing to wear them.
Remember that every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. It's important to be patient and persistent when encouraging your child to wear their shoes, and to celebrate even small successes along the way.
Strategies to Help an Autistic Child Overcome their Fear of Shoes
Some autistic children may have a fear or phobia of shoes. This can be due to sensory issues, past negative experiences, or anxiety about change. Here are some strategies that may help your child overcome their fear of shoes:
Start by having your child touch and hold their shoes without putting them on. Gradually increase the level of exposure over time until they feel comfortable wearing them.
Use positive reinforcement to encourage your child's efforts. Praise them for touching their shoes, holding them, and eventually wearing them.
Engage in desensitization activities with your child to help them get used to the feeling of different textures on their feet. You can use sensory bins filled with sand, rice, or beans, or try different types of socks or footwear.
Consider play therapy as a way to help your child work through any underlying anxiety or fears related to shoes. A trained therapist can provide a safe and supportive environment for your child to express themselves and develop coping strategies.
It's important to remember that overcoming a fear takes time and patience. Be supportive and understanding of your child's feelings, and celebrate even small successes along the way.
Getting an autistic child to keep their shoes on can be a challenge, but it is important to work with your child to find a solution that works for them. By understanding the sensory issues that may be affecting your child and using strategies like offering choices, gradual exposure, and sensory-friendly shoes, you can help your child feel more comfortable and confident wearing their shoes. Remember to be patient and use positive reinforcement to encourage your child's efforts.
- Autism Parenting Magazine: https://www.autismparentingmagazine.com/child-with-autism-wear-shoes/
- Autism Speaks: https://www.autismspeaks.org/sensory-issues