Pediatric Therapeutic Services

Developmental Shift…..

I’m a school based occupational therapist.  And sometimes I feel like the developmental milestones are shifting.

For instance: shoe tying.  Most of us adults learned and mastered it at the age of 5,  during kindergarten year. I received a tricycle on my 5th birthday.  Red and shiny.  And also tied my shoe on that birthday.  I remember it distinctly. Now, today, there are many 6 and 7 year olds still unable to tie their shoes, and a few 8 year olds, or second graders.  Why is this?  Good question.

Has the developmental milestone of shoe tying changed due to:

  1. the retail world selling shoes that tare slip on without laces, so there’s no need to tie because the laces don’t exist…..
  2. both parents are working now and are very busy/just want to get out of the house, and therefore would rather just slip shoes on their children quickly that don’t need to be tied……
  3. the little brains of children are changing and not quite ready for the intricacies of shoe tying until later?
  4.  doctors are no longer asking parents for that milestone at well visits and it’s been moved officially to a later age?
  5. a combination of 1 to 4.

I believe the answer is 5, a combination of 1 to 4.

People are often ashamed their child can’t tie their shoes yet, and some say it’s just not that important.  Well……here’s my soapbox………it is important.  It is important to learn the life skill of shoe tying for these reasons:

  • it’s a highly visual and perceptual skill (we visually discriminate between two laces and turn them correctly to achieve a bow and knot)
  • we achieve a motor planning skill, or ability to follow and complete multi-stepped directions
  • midline crossing skill and using both sides of the brain
  • um……’s a functional skill……and it’s safer to have your shoes tied
  • and my fave……….you don’t want your parents tying your shoes forever…think of what that will do for your social life…..

Now obviously, there are children who may have motor deficits and would need adaptations or other options out there to help them with this life skill. But I know some who are just letting it go.  Wahhhhhhhhh, it makes this OT sad.  🙁

It’s a life skill.  That’s what is important to remember.  I currently teach children who need help with shoe tying. But as mentioned before, there are several students not requiring/participating in OT services that cannot tie shoes and are in 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grades!  Please know it is an important skill and there are several ways to teach a child/your child.  I currently use a lace that is colored two different colors.  Not my idea…..I bought the lace.  But it is a stellar idea.   If a child sees two different colors, they know which one to pull at what time, because they look different.  Take your child’s lace and just go over half of it with a permanent marker!  By the way, I do the “around the tree” method, not the double bunny ear……the double bunny ear is not reliable…always comes undone.   I also sing a song I made up.  Singing uses other areas of the brain to help out.  And children on the autism spectrum respond to the rhythm of music more so than using straightforward verbal directions.

Remember…there are several adaptations out there if needed…….colored laces, stretchy laces, velcroed laces, etc.  but it’s important to at least introduce the skill to your child in kindergarten….please….so many wonderful skills are learned in this life skill that carryover into other skills!  and also….you don’t want to be tying your child’s shoes at their dinner date, do you?

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