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Learning to tie my shoes at age 11

This blog is by Kerry Magro, an award-winning international motivational speaker and best-selling author who’s on the autism spectrum. A version of this blog originally appeared on Kerrymagro.com. A version of this blog originally appeared here.

It may not be a big deal for some but it was a huge milestone for me.

Often while giving talks about autism during the Q&A period someone asks me how autism still impacts me today. While I used to be nonverbal, most of my issues today are not communication based. Most of my issues today revolve around getting frightened by surprises (i.e. when someone comes up from behind me and puts their hands over my eyes and says ‘guess who’) and dealing with fine motor challenges. To this day it’s still often difficult for me to get my tie right and to use buttons.

An example of a milestone I often share is when a huge milestone occurred for me being able to tie my own shoes for the first time. It wasn’t an easy process. Years of struggling to tie my shoes led me to wearing Velcro sneakers and slip on dress shoes for years. I always pushed myself though seeing my peers accomplishing this task and wanted to prove to myself that I could do it too.

My parents helped me practice using boards with a picture of a shoe on them with shoelaces sticking out of them. I would practice the steps over and over and would take that practice to tying my own shoes. Years of practice led to a breakthrough. At 11-years-old, I woke up one day for school and it just clicked. I couldn’t believe it at that moment. It was a great day the first time I was able to do it successfully and I still remember that moment to this day.

As a professional speaker today I’m often approached with similar struggles for their kids. My advice is to take your time during situations like these with your loved ones. It needs to be a supportive process to make sure they don’t feel discouraged. If/when that milestone comes though cherish it. We all need positive reinforcement during these moments.

My parents were so proud of me for being able to tie my shoes that day and the days to come when my parents took me to Foot Locker to buy new shoes that had laces on them for the first time.

I often feel at times fine motor challenges get overlooked when looking at the autism spectrum. I only hope this task among many other milestones will be able to be achieved by our loved ones in the future.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.