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A New Spin On Tying Your Shoes

Helping Complex Learners Gain Independence

As a parent of a Complex Learner, you know one size doesn’t fit all. Some children might thrive with visual reminders while others rely on auditory cues. Some children might need a mindful minute to calm down before a big test while others need a movement break to be able to focus. Every child is different and what matters most is giving them the tools they need to thrive and grow.

At Wolf, our Occupational Therapists play a critical role in identifying how to help each child succeed. OT’s are masters at figuring out what tools, tricks, or techniques can be used to help a student master a skill, gain independence, or be able to access learning. This month to celebrate Occupational Therapy Month, we sat down with Wolf’s own Priscilla Nova to talk about a different way to approach an everyday task – tying your shoes!

As you might already know, many Complex Learners may struggle with this skill. Some have difficulty crossing the midline while others can’t comprehend the spatial awareness of where to put the shoelaces while trying to master the bunny ears. This can be frustrating and discouraging! 

But just like each child is different, there are also different ways to tie your shoes! We’ve broken down this new technique below along with why this might be the perfect fit for your child! 

How It’s Different: 

Many Complex Learners struggle to cross the midline. This means that information going from one hemisphere in your brain to the other doesn’t pass through easily resulting in struggles with integrating your left or right side and/or your top and bottom half. This could present itself as your child struggling to move both their arms and legs during a jumping jack. 

This new method of shoe tying eliminates a significant amount of crossing the midline while still working on fine motor skills, sequencing, and motor planning. Meaning your child will be able to learn a new skill and gain independence without having to frequently cross the midline!

In addition, for many Complex Learners, the ability to process and retain information can be tricky. While struggling with working memory, many children might need to stop in the middle of learning to tie their shoes to review the next steps. But with the traditional bunny ears method, this means that when they let go of the laces – there goes any progress they’ve made. This can be so frustrating for kids who are eager to learn this new skill and gain independence. With this new technique, at any point in the process, you are able to pause what you’re doing without losing your progress. This means that your child can ask for help or consult a diagram and be able to jump right back in!

So – how do you do this new technique?

What To Do: 

Step 1

Take each lace into a separate hand

Step 2

Cross one lace over the other, tuck under, and pull to make a square knot

Step 3:

Repeat Step 2 to create a second square knot

Step 4:

Taking the end of lace in your hand, insert it partly through the square knot you created in Step 3

Step 5: 

Pull the lace through

Step 6:

Repeat on the opposite side

Step 7:

Pull the bow as needed to tighten and you’re done!

Now that you know how it works, it’s time to introduce it to your child! When first introducing this to your child, here are a few tips to help!

Work With Your Child

The first time you’re showing your child this new method, demonstrate it for them by doing the beginning steps yourself. Follow all of the steps but stop at the last one and let your child finish it. By leaving the last step undone, your child will feel a sense of accomplishment as they quickly get to see their effort lead to a finished product. This can be especially motivating for easily defeated kids. 

Two Different Colors

A helpful tip to make learning shoe tying easier is to have your child’s shoe laces be two separate colors. This is more than just a fashion statement and can actually help your child recognize what goes where by being able to distinguish between the two shoelaces. 

Pay Attention To How Quickly They Pick It Up

While each child is different and there’s no promise that this will work for every child, if this method does work for your child, you’ll be able to see it very quickly. If your child likes this method, they’ll be able to learn this in no time as it’ll be very easy to learn and very hard for them to forget! If after multiple demonstrations, they’re still struggling, this might not be the method that works for them! Time to try the next one, instead!

Once your child has mastered this technique, you’ll be amazed at how this skill will be able to transfer across different routines – everything from tying an apron to craft projects! This is also a great step towards mastering independence by giving your child the tools they need to help get themselves dressed or just change into sneakers before going to play with friends. Let us know how this worked for you in the comments below!

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