Ask the Experts

Trouble Tying Shoes

“My 7-year-old son, who has been diagnosed with ADHD, hasn’t learned to tie shoes yet,” one parent tells us. “Every time I practice tying shoes with him, he gets frustrated. Should I give up?”

While most kids learn to tie their shoes at 5 or 6, my son — who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a very high IQ — didn’t learn until he was 7, going on 8. Many kids with ADHD find tying shoes challenging. It requires focus, eye-hand coordination, and an active working memory. None of these are strong suits in our kids.

Keep in mind that developmental delays are often part of ADD/ADHD. Fortunately, there are kits and products on the market — Red Lace, Yellow Lace and One, Two, Tie My Shoe — that will teach them how to do this basic task. You can also buy shoes that don’t need lacing.

When he is a little older, the following strategies may help:

1. Consider using cue cards that show each step of tying a shoe. A child with ADD/ADHD often has a strong visual memory that can bolster a weak working memory.

2. Use a sample shoe on a table to make it easier to practice.

If these strategies don’t help, work with an occupational therapist or physical therapist to help him develop his fine motor skills.

Finally, take a deep breath. He will learn to tie his shoes!

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