How Do You Get An Autistic Child To Keep Their Shoes On?

For children with autism, wearing shoes can often be a challenging task. Various factors, including sensory issues and behavioral factors, contribute to their resistance. Understanding these challenges is crucial in developing effective strategies to encourage shoe-wearing.

Understanding the Sensory Issues

Children with autism often have sensory sensitivities that can make wearing shoes uncomfortable or overwhelming for them. The sensation of certain materials, tightness, or pressure on their feet may trigger sensory overload, leading to resistance. The sensory issues experienced by children with autism can vary from person to person, but some common sensitivities include:

  • Sensitivity to touch: Some children may be hypersensitive to certain textures or sensations, finding them irritating or uncomfortable.
  • Sensitivity to pressure: The feeling of confinement or pressure caused by shoes may be distressing for children with autism.
  • Sensitivity to temperature: Extreme temperatures, such as the heat or cold, may exacerbate sensory sensitivities.

To address these challenges, it's important to consider sensory-friendly options when choosing shoes for children with autism. These options often feature soft, breathable materials and adjustable closures to accommodate individual comfort levels.

Behavioral Factors Contributing to Resistance

Behavioral factors also play a significant role in the resistance children with autism may exhibit towards wearing shoes. Some common behavioral factors contributing to shoe-wearing difficulties include:

  • Rigid routines: Children with autism may have specific routines or preferences that do not align with wearing shoes. Deviating from these routines can cause distress.
  • Sensory-seeking behavior: While some children with autism may be sensitive to certain sensations, others may seek out sensory input. They may remove their shoes to fulfill their sensory needs.
  • Communication challenges: Children with limited verbal skills may struggle to express their discomfort or preferences related to shoe-wearing.

Understanding these behavioral factors can help caregivers develop strategies to address the resistance. By creating a positive and predictable routine around shoe-wearing, gradually exposing the child to shoes, and using visual supports like social stories, caregivers can help children with autism become more comfortable with wearing shoes.

By recognizing and understanding the sensory and behavioral challenges associated with shoe-wearing, parents and caregivers can implement effective strategies to overcome these barriers. It's important to remember that each child with autism is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Patience, flexibility, and collaboration with professionals can greatly contribute to the success of encouraging shoe-wearing in children with autism.

Strategies for Encouraging Shoe-Wearing

Getting a child with autism to comfortably wear shoes can be a challenge due to sensory issues and behavioral factors. However, with the right strategies, you can help your child develop a positive relationship with shoe-wearing. Here are three effective strategies to consider:

Creating a Positive Shoe-Wearing Routine

Establishing a consistent and positive shoe-wearing routine can greatly assist children with autism in adapting to this daily activity. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Set a predictable schedule: Establish a specific time of day for putting on and taking off shoes, such as before leaving the house or after waking up. Consistency helps create a sense of routine and familiarity.
  • Make it enjoyable: Incorporate favorite activities or rewards before or after the shoe-wearing routine. This can help your child associate positive experiences with wearing shoes.
  • Involve your child: Encourage your child's participation in the routine by allowing them to choose their shoes or socks. Providing them with a sense of control can increase their willingness to engage in the process.
  • Use visual supports: Utilize visual schedules or charts to visually represent the steps involved in the shoe-wearing routine. Visual supports can help children with autism understand and follow the sequence of actions.

Gradual Exposure and Desensitization

For children with sensory sensitivities, gradually exposing them to the sensations and textures associated with shoes can help desensitize them over time. Here's how you can approach gradual exposure and desensitization:

  • Start with socks: Begin by having your child wear socks without shoes for short periods. This allows them to get accustomed to the feeling of fabric on their feet.
  • Introduce soft and comfortable shoes: Choose shoes that are soft, flexible, and made of sensory-friendly materials. These shoes can help minimize discomfort and sensory overload.
  • Progress to full shoe-wearing: Once your child is comfortable with socks and soft shoes, gradually introduce them to firmer and more structured shoes. Increase the duration of shoe-wearing over time, starting with short intervals and gradually extending them.
  • Pair with preferred activities: Engage your child in enjoyable activities while they are wearing shoes. This can distract them from any discomfort and create positive associations with shoe-wearing.

Visual Supports and Social Stories

Visual supports and social stories are effective tools for preparing children with autism for new experiences and routines. When it comes to shoe-wearing, you can use these strategies to help your child understand the process and expectations. Here's how:

  • Visual schedules: Create a visual schedule or chart that outlines the steps involved in putting on shoes. Use pictures or symbols to represent each step and display the schedule in a prominent location.
  • Social stories: Develop a social story specifically focused on shoe-wearing. Use simple and concise language to explain why shoes are important and how to wear them. Include pictures or illustrations to enhance understanding.
  • Modeling and role-playing: Demonstrate the shoe-wearing process to your child or encourage them to practice with dolls or stuffed animals. Role-playing can help them become familiar with the steps and reduce anxiety.

By implementing these strategies, you can help your child with autism develop the skills and confidence needed to wear shoes comfortably. Remember to celebrate small successes and be patient throughout the process.

Sensory-Friendly Shoe Options

For children with autism, finding the right pair of shoes that they are comfortable wearing can make a significant difference in their daily lives. Sensory issues can often contribute to the challenges of shoe-wearing. In this section, we will explore some strategies and considerations for selecting sensory-friendly shoe options.

Choosing the Right Shoe Style

When it comes to choosing shoes for children with autism, it's important to consider their sensory preferences and needs. Some children may have a preference for certain shoe styles, such as slip-on shoes, while others may prefer shoes with adjustable closures like Velcro or elastic laces. The goal is to find a shoe style that minimizes discomfort and sensory overload, promoting a positive shoe-wearing experience.

Considerations for Shoe Material and Construction

The material and construction of the shoes can also impact comfort and sensory sensitivity. Opting for shoes made from soft and breathable materials, such as mesh or leather, can help reduce irritation and discomfort. It's also important to consider the weight and flexibility of the shoes, as some children may find heavy or rigid shoes more challenging to tolerate.

To assist with the selection process, consider using a table to compare different shoe options:

Shoe Style Material Weight Flexibility
Athletic Sneakers Mesh and Synthetic Lightweight Flexible
Slip-On Shoes Canvas or Leather Moderate Flexible
Sandals Synthetic or Leather Lightweight Varies by Style

Customization and Adaptation Techniques

In some cases, customization and adaptation techniques can be employed to make shoes more sensory-friendly for children with autism. For example, adding additional cushioning or orthotic inserts can provide extra comfort and support. Similarly, using sensory-friendly insoles or socks can help address sensory sensitivities and reduce discomfort.

It's important to involve the child in the customization process and consider their specific needs and preferences. Consulting with an occupational therapist or a specialist in sensory integration can provide valuable guidance in selecting and adapting shoes for children with autism.

By considering the shoe style, material, construction, and customization options, parents can find sensory-friendly shoe options that promote comfort and reduce resistance when it comes to shoe-wearing for children with autism. Remember, each child is unique, and it may take some trial and error to find the right shoes that meet their specific sensory needs.

Engaging in Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy can play a crucial role in helping children with autism develop the skills and abilities needed for various daily activities, including shoe-wearing. Occupational therapists are trained professionals who specialize in addressing sensory and behavioral challenges. In this section, we will explore the role of occupational therapy in supporting children with autism in shoe-wearing, as well as some therapeutic interventions and strategies that can be implemented.

The Role of Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy aims to improve an individual's ability to participate in everyday activities through the therapeutic use of meaningful and purposeful interventions. When it comes to shoe-wearing challenges in children with autism, occupational therapists can provide valuable guidance and support. They assess the child's sensory processing skills, motor coordination, and behavioral factors that may contribute to shoe-wearing difficulties.

Occupational therapists work collaboratively with parents, caregivers, and other professionals to develop individualized strategies and interventions based on the specific needs and goals of the child. These interventions are designed to address sensory sensitivities, promote self-regulation, and enhance motor and cognitive skills related to shoe-wearing.

Therapeutic Interventions for Shoe-Wearing

Occupational therapists employ a variety of therapeutic interventions to support children with autism in overcoming shoe-wearing challenges. These interventions are tailored to the individual child's needs and may include:

  • Sensory Integration Techniques: Occupational therapists use sensory integration techniques to help children with autism regulate their responses to sensory stimuli associated with shoe-wearing. This may involve activities that gradually expose the child to different textures, pressures, and sensations related to shoes.
  • Motor Skills Development: Occupational therapists focus on improving the child's motor skills, including fine motor skills required for fastening and unfastening shoes, and gross motor skills necessary for balance and coordination during shoe-wearing.
  • Desensitization Strategies: Occupational therapists use desensitization techniques to gradually introduce the child to the process of wearing shoes. This may involve gradually increasing the duration of shoe-wearing over time or using systematic desensitization techniques to reduce anxiety or aversion.
  • Visual Supports: Visual supports, such as visual schedules, social stories, or visual cues, can be used by occupational therapists to help children understand the shoe-wearing routine, sequence of steps, and expectations. These visual aids provide structure and predictability, which can be comforting for children with autism.

Collaborating with Occupational Therapists

Collaboration between parents and occupational therapists is essential in supporting children with autism in their shoe-wearing journey. Occupational therapists provide guidance and training to parents on implementing strategies and interventions at home. They also work closely with other professionals involved in the child's care, such as pediatricians and behavior analysts, to ensure a comprehensive approach.

By collaborating with an occupational therapist, parents can gain valuable insights and knowledge about their child's sensory and behavioral needs. They can learn effective techniques to address shoe-wearing difficulties and promote independence. Additionally, occupational therapists can provide resources and recommendations for sensory-friendly shoes that may help alleviate some of the challenges associated with shoe-wearing for children with autism.

Occupational therapy offers a holistic approach to addressing shoe-wearing challenges in children with autism. Through therapeutic interventions and collaborative efforts, the goal is to empower children to develop the skills and confidence needed to engage in daily activities with greater independence and comfort.

Seeking Professional Support

When it comes to helping children with autism overcome challenges related to shoe-wearing, seeking professional support can be instrumental in finding effective strategies and interventions. Collaborating with pediatricians, specialists, behavior analysts, and joining support groups or communities can provide valuable guidance and resources.

Working with Pediatricians and Specialists

Pediatricians and specialists such as occupational therapists can play a vital role in addressing shoe-wearing difficulties in children with autism. These professionals have experience and knowledge in working with children with special needs. By discussing your child's specific challenges and concerns, they can provide tailored advice and recommendations.

Pediatricians can assess your child's overall health and development, ensuring that there are no underlying medical issues contributing to their resistance to wearing shoes. They can also provide guidance on potential sensory issues and refer you to appropriate specialists for further evaluation and intervention. Collaborating with pediatricians and specialists can help you develop a comprehensive plan to address your child's unique needs.

Collaborating with Behavior Analysts

Behavior analysts specialize in understanding behavior and developing effective behavior modification strategies. Collaborating with a behavior analyst can be particularly helpful when dealing with behavioral factors that contribute to shoe-wearing resistance. They can conduct functional assessments to identify the underlying causes of the behavior and create behavior intervention plans to address these challenges.

Behavior analysts can guide you in implementing positive reinforcement techniques, visual schedules, and other behavior management strategies to encourage shoe-wearing. They can also assist in developing social stories or visual supports that cater to your child's specific needs. Collaborating with a behavior analyst can provide you with valuable insights and evidence-based strategies to promote positive behaviors.

Joining Support Groups and Communities

Connecting with other parents and families who are facing similar challenges can provide emotional support and a platform for sharing experiences and strategies. Support groups and online communities dedicated to autism can offer a wealth of information, resources, and a sense of community.

By joining these groups, you can engage in discussions, ask questions, and learn from others who have successfully navigated the shoe-wearing difficulties with their children. These communities can provide a safe space to exchange ideas, offer encouragement, and gain insights into effective strategies. Remember to always consult professionals for personalized advice, but drawing on the experiences of others can be a valuable supplement to your journey.

Remember, every child with autism is unique, and what works for one child may not work for another. Seeking professional support, working with pediatricians, specialists, behavior analysts, and joining support groups can help you access a range of resources and strategies to address your child's shoe-wearing challenges. Keep in mind that patience, persistence, and a collaborative approach are key to finding the best solutions for your child's individual needs.


What if my child still refuses to wear shoes despite all the strategies?

It's important to be patient and understanding with your child. Try to identify the underlying reason for their refusal and seek professional help if necessary. In some cases, alternative footwear such as socks or sandals may be more comfortable for your child.

Can I use negative consequences to discourage my child from taking off their shoes?

It's not recommended to use negative consequences as they can create anxiety and fear in your child. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and finding solutions that work for both you and your child.

How can I help my child understand when it's appropriate to take off their shoes?

Use visual aids such as pictures or social stories to help your child understand when it's appropriate to take off their shoes, such as at home or on the beach. Consistent routines and verbal reminders can also help reinforce these expectations.

What if my child has difficulty communicating their discomfort with certain types of shoes?

Look for non-verbal cues such as pulling at their shoes or rubbing their feet. Experiment with different types of footwear until you find ones that are comfortable for your child. Consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect an underlying medical issue is causing discomfort.

What other sensory strategies can I try besides providing sensory input before putting on shoes?

Consider using compression socks or weighted shoes which provide deep pressure stimulation and can be calming for some children with autism. Additionally, using scents such as lavender oil on the feet can provide a calming effect.


Getting a child with autism to keep their shoes on may seem like an impossible task, but with the right strategies and a little bit of patience, it can be done. By understanding the reasons behind shoe removal, choosing comfortable shoes, gradually increasing wear time, using positive reinforcement, providing sensory input, and practicing, you can help your child become more comfortable and confident in wearing shoes.