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The Day My Son Tied his own shoe

Updated on August 1, 2010

Most people have this moment much earlier in life.

"Mom! My shoe!" I could hear him stressing in the back seat of my car on a VERY hot July afternoon. "Why did you get me new shoes, why couldn't I just keep the old ones? They were tied the way I liked them." he complained loudly. I quietly explained to him that I was driving and he was not walking at the moment so he was going to have to wait or tie it himself. My twelve year old son who has been tying his shoes for years now, turned around and said "don't you think its time that you did it yourself?" My distressed son sighed and said "Miss Megan has been trying to teach me." I noted that so has every single member of our family and every therapist and paraprofessional who has ever worked with him. It wasn't that he could not tie his shoe, he just could not stand that he could not do it on the first try.

This type of problem is very typical with someone who has Asperger Syndrome. They lack fine motor control to tackle tasks such as shoe tying and buttoning a shirt, but can memorize facts that very few individuals could give back without the use of the computer. He can tell you anything about any United States President, but he cannot tie his own shoes. It is not only difficult when you are fourteen and a half, it also is getting embarassing.

My twelve year old showed remarkable patience that day. He took one of his own shoes and gave a tying lesson. My older son was timid. He was so afraid that he would make a mistake that he did not even want to try. But while I was driving my car, an amazing thing happened. My Asperger child tied his own shoe. He did it without a single tear, without a meltdown, without saying "I can't." What made it even better was that his brother who he is often at odds with was the one who encouraged and walked him through it, like true brothers, partners.

This was one of the best days of my life. I know it sounds weird to those who do not understand, but it was. Something that I had basically given up on teaching him. We simply tied his shoes loosely and he slipped his feet in and out of them. He was adamant on not doing it anymore. With schoolwork to get through and getting him to socialize and use proper hygiene and table ettiquette, there are just some things I am too exhausted to worry about. Plus I know many typical children who have trouble with this skill as well, so I did not stress over it anymore. But what made this day the best was that my boys who often say they hate each other, worked so well together. I did not even ask them to. They did because they are brothers and they have a bond whether they think they do or not.

My younger son longs for a "normal" brother. Someone who cares about sports and watches it with him. Someone who wants to go outside and shoot hoops and play baseball or soccer with him. At this time, he only has his dad to to that when his dad is not at work. It's frustrating to have someone who is the same size as you in the house who has not interest in what you are doing. My older son is annoyed that my younger son cannot accept him and is always trying to force him out of his solitary world and into the noisy world everyone else exists in. It is upsetting to him and causes him to shut down and become even less enthusiastic to playing with his brother.

But every so often we catch a moment between them. My younger son needs help with his math homework and is able to utilize his older brother's high intelligence. They can play a video game together or discuss something funny on Youtube. But the shoe tying in the car was probably the best moment I have witnessed between them in many years. It did my heart good. It filled me with a sense of hope. For both of my boys.


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