April 2021 - Hidden Talents ABA

How Do You Get a Child with Autism to Keep Their Shoes On?

One of the many challenges children with autism face is wearing shoes. Due to sensory issues and other factors, they may find it difficult to put on shoes and keep them on their feet. 

Here are some tips on how to make wearing shoes easier for your autistic child. 

Why Autistic Children Have a Hard Time with Their Shoes

Children with autism spectrum disorder are often reluctant when it comes to wearing shoes.  Several factors may contribute to this particular challenge: 

Sensory issues

One of the main reasons for foot discomfort in autistic children is sensory processing disorder, a condition often associated with the diagnosis. Children with autism regularly experience hypersensitivity to various elements in their environment, including clothing and shoes. 

Foot pain

Foot pain may be another cause of your child’s hesitance to wear shoes. It can result from injury, physical conditions like the size and shape of feet, some medical conditions, or the use of an ankle-foot orthosis. You should consult your child’s occupational therapist or health professional if you suspect your child might have foot pain.

Dealing with stress

Many children with autism have difficulties learning to tie their shoelaces due to fine motor skill delays. As a result, putting their shoes on can become a stressful experience that triggers meltdowns and further increases their reluctance to wear shoes. 

How Do You Get an Autistic Child to Keep Their Shoes On? 

Persuading your autistic child to keep their shoes on can be a daunting task. Here are a few tips that can help you turn wearing shoes into a positive experience for your child. 

Get the right pair of socks

Autistic children with sensory issues are often sensitive to the seams on their socks, which may be a part of the reason your child dislikes wearing shoes. Seamless socks are more comfortable and will provide relief for your child’s sensitive feet. Brands like EZ Sox and SmartKnit Kids carry sensory-friendly socks with seamless toes, non-skid bottoms, and pull-up loops to help your child put them on. Soft fabrics including cotton, bamboo, or silk also work well for children with sensory issues.

Find alternatives to laces 

Buckle and lace-up shoes can feel tight and restrictive and may be a reason your child won’t keep their shoes on. A hook-and-loop fastening is a better choice as it will allow your child to wear shoes as tight or loose as they wish. To avoid the stress of tying the shoes, you may want to replace your child’s regular laces with quick-release or no-tie elastic laces such as Xpand, Greeper Laces, or Lock Laces, for example.

Know the right measurements

It is essential that your child’s footwear is the right size. Tight and ill-fitting shoes are not only painful but can also damage your child’s feet as they grow. Some children like high-top sneakers because they make them feel secure, while others find them too constricting. If this is the case, you may want to consider wider shoe models or loose-fitting sandals for your child. 

Buy adaptive shoes 

Adaptive shoes are designed for children who have special needs when it comes to footwear. Your child with autism can greatly benefit from wearing adaptive shoes, as they provide increased comfort and are easy to put on and take off. These shoes are usually extra wide and include features such as adjustable straps, removable insoles, and pull tabs. 

Check whether your child needs orthotics

In case of musculoskeletal issues or walking difficulties, your child can be referred to a podiatrist who will assess their feet and gait and determine whether there is a need for additional support aids. The podiatrist may prescribe orthotics or foot orthoses, special shoe inserts that provide foot support. There are many shoes that work well with ankle-foot orthoses if your child needs to wear them. 

Going to a Shoe Store with Your Autistic Child 

A trip to a shoe store with an autistic child who doesn’t like to be touched, finds busy places overwhelming, and has trouble understanding how to wait for a turn can be extremely challenging. It may trigger anxiety and quickly lead to aggressive behavior. Here’s what you can do to create optimal conditions and ensure a less frustrating shopping experience for your child. 

Prepare in advance

Children with autism spectrum disorder need predictability. Knowing what to expect allows them to better cope with potentially stressful situations and makes the transition to a new space easier. That’s why you should ideally start preparing your child for going to a shoe store the day before. Talk to your child about the upcoming shopping trip, show them the photos of the store, and let them know what to expect. 

Use social stories

Creating a social story that depicts the situation you will encounter will help your child understand how the visit to the shoe store will unfold, what they will be asked to do, and when the trip will end. 

Measure your child’s feet

If you know that going to the shoe store will be a difficult experience, measure your child’s feet in advance using at-home devices such as RITZ Stick or Brannock

Visit during the store’s quiet time

If your child has sensory issues, it may be a good idea to contact the store in advance to find out if they have any quiet hours. This way, you’ll avoid crowds and prevent your child from getting overwhelmed. 

Buy more than one pair of shoes

To make sure you chose the perfect fit, buy several different pairs of shoes and let your child try them on at home. You can then simply return the ones that your child finds uncomfortable, but don’t forget to check the retailer’s return policy first.

Identify your child’s triggers

Identify the triggers that could provoke your child’s anxiety in the shoe store. If your child is sensitive to loud sounds, you can bring headphones and if overhead lighting poses a problem, your child can wear sunglasses or a baseball cap for protection. 

Bring a soothing item

Make sure to bring your child’s favorite toy or blanket, earmuffs, a fidget toy, or any other object or activity that will soothe your child in case they get overwhelmed. 

Plan a fun activity

Schedule a fun activity after the shopping trip that will serve as a motivator for your child. This can be as simple as setting aside some time to play with a favorite toy or game together.

Reward good behavior

Reward your child with a small treat for completing the shopping trip. Provide lots of praise and attention if your child is doing a good job.

The Best Adaptive Shoes for Autistic Children

Many brands make adaptive shoes designed for children with sensory issues, including those with autism. Listed below are some of the most popular ones:

Stride Rite

Stride Rite carries a range of wide and extra wide children’s shoes with soft memory foam footbeds, flexible soles, and hook-and-loop fasteners that are both comfortable and easy to put on. If you donate an old pair of shoes to charity, you’ll receive 20% off your purchase.


Pediped shoes support children’s natural movement and promote healthy foot development. They are made from soft, pliable leather, and feature convenient hook-and-loop closure. All models comply with the strictest safety standards.


Tsukihoshi footwear is a popular choice for children with autism due to their comfort and flexibility. Most styles have no-tie stretchy laces, ideal for children with fine motor skill delays. The shoes are washable, latex-free, and work well with ankle-foot orthoses.

BILLY Footwear 

BILLY Footwear offers functional shoes with zippers that go all the way along the side and around the toes, allowing them to open and fold over completely. The shoes are both comfortable and quick and easy to put on and take off. 

Hatchbacks Footwear

Hatchbacks Footwear developed and patented a hinged shoe that opens from the back to make it easy to put on and easily fit over ankle-foot orthoses. 


Plae shoes are a good pick if your child uses ankle-foot orthoses or supra-malleolar orthosis which supports the foot just above the ankle bone. They are flexible, wide, have extended Velcro straps, and are machine washable. 


Many Skechers models feature Velcro straps or a pull-top loop so that they can slip on and off your child’s feet easily. The shoes have gel-infused memory foam for increased comfort and are lightweight and durable. 

Nike FlyEase 

The Nike FlyEase sneaker line consists of lace-free adaptive shoes that are quick and easy to put on. The responsive foam adapts to your child’s movement, making them soft and very comfortable to wear.


Vans autism acceptance collection is a line of sneakers designed for children with sensory processing issues. The collection features shoes that slip on with pull-tabs or close with hook-and-loop fasteners. The footwear comes only in muted colors that will appeal to children who find bright colors overstimulating. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Autism

Cognitive behavioral therapy is used to treat children with autism spectrum disorder who suffer from additional mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD. 

This type of therapy has been proven effective in teaching autistic children how to avoid negative emotions and change unwanted behaviors. 

What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy designed to treat mental health disorders by identifying and changing unhealthy and harmful behaviors. It is based on the idea that behaviors are learned and that, as a result, they can be changed.  

As its name suggests, cognitive behavioral therapy relates to both cognition or thinking and behavior. One of the core principles of CBT is that thoughts and feelings are not determined by the situation but rather by the interpretation of the situation. Therefore, negative behaviors are often caused by unrealistic thoughts that set off false feelings and emotions. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, patients can learn different strategies to help them change the way they interpret and respond to a situation. 

CBT has been proven effective in treating a broad range of psychological disorders such as anxiety, panic disorders, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder, psychosis, and bipolar disorder. More recently, it has also been used to treat other conditions including autism spectrum disorder.

Techniques used in CBT

Cognitive behavioral therapy encourages patients to challenge their thoughts and beliefs using a variety of techniques. As they gain new coping skills, they are exposed to increasingly difficult situations in a process called graded exposure.

Some of the most frequently used techniques in cognitive behavioral therapy include: 

Cognitive restructuring

This method involves identifying and reframing negative thought patterns. Once patients are aware of their thoughts, they can learn to reframe them into something more positive and productive.

Guided discovery

Patients are asked questions that challenge their beliefs and assumptions. In the process, they will start seeing things from other perspectives and eventually choose a more helpful way to deal with challenging situations.

Exposure therapy

Patients are gradually exposed to whatever provokes their fear or anxiety, while the therapist provides guidance on how to cope with the situation. Eventually, patients will start feeling less vulnerable and more confident as they confront the feared object, activity, or situation.

Relaxation techniques

Progressive relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, visualization, muscle relaxation, and guided imagery, are helpful techniques used for dealing with phobias and social anxieties.


Patients are asked to write down both negative and positive thoughts and record any new behaviors that occur between two therapy sessions. This practice helps recognize distorted thought patterns and move away from negative thoughts.

Behavioral experiments

This technique is used for patients with anxiety disorders that involve catastrophic thinking. Before they face a situation that makes them anxious, patients are asked what they think is the worst thing that can happen. After the experiment, they can test the validity of their belief by estimating to what extent their prediction was correct.

Activity scheduling 

Patients are required to write down all the activities that they need to complete and schedule them in an orderly manner in order to lower the level of stress and anxiety.

Role play

Role playing can help patients understand other perspectives, through visualizing and practicing different ways of handling challenging situations. This technique is successfully used in dealing with social phobias, improving communication and problem-solving skills, and increasing confidence levels.

Successive approximation

This CBT exercise helps patients tackle difficult situations by taking tasks that are perceived as overwhelming and breaking them into smaller, more achievable steps. 

Using CBT for Autistic Children

Children with autism spectrum disorder typically suffer from additional conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that psychological issues are common in autistic children, with anxiety disorders affecting around 40% of children with autism, often accompanied by anger, depression, ADHD, or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective tool in treating the common conditions associated with an autism diagnosis. Researchers have found that using CBT can help ease anxiety and redirect avoidant behavior in children with autism. A study has also shown that after only sixteen CBT sessions over three months, 78% of autistic children have seen improvement in their condition

Benefits of CBT for children with autism

Cognitive behavioral therapy can equip children with autism and their families with coping skills that will help them understand and manage emotional distress, and any accompanying physical symptoms, negative thoughts, and problematic behaviors.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has multiple benefits for children with autism:

  • It can help them cope with and manage anxiety and other emotional issues.
  • It helps them deal with stress and fear, making it easier to face dreaded situations. 
  • It allows them to change irrational and negative thoughts.
  • It may help older children improve their relationships with others. A study on children with high-functioning autism has shown that CBT enables gradual improvement in communication and other social skills.

What does a CBT session for autism look like?

During cognitive behavioral therapy sessions, your child will work with a specially trained therapist who will help them identify and analyze unwanted behaviors and their harmful aspects. A clear understanding of the behavior will make it easier to recognize it later on and react appropriately. The therapist will also teach your child how thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are related, how they influence each other, and provide strategies to approach difficult situations in a more constructive way.

To help your child learn necessary skills, a CBT therapist will use a variety of techniques, such as:

  • Asking the child about their thought processes in a difficult situation in order to identify any negative patterns. These patterns will then be reframed into positive and productive thoughts.
  • Explaining how to cope with fear and anxiety while at the same time slowly exposing your child to the same situation that triggers negative emotions. 
  • Helping a child who avoids or puts off activities due to fear or anxiety to establish a structure and a routine, which will make it easier to follow through with the task.
  • Visualizing all the steps and potential risks before getting engaged in an activity. This exercise will help reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, mindfulness, and guided imagery. These techniques are particularly useful when dealing with anxieties and phobias.
  • Practicing positive behavior in difficult situations with the help of role play. 

CBT therapy for autistic children can be done either individually or in a group. Your therapist may also offer family therapy as well as parent coaching.

Challenges CBT therapists face when treating autistic children

Cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective and empirically supported treatment, however, therapists who work with autistic children may still encounter a number of challenges. 

To begin with, children with autism spectrum disorder need to have the necessary skills to ensure the success of the therapy. Although autistic children can usually distinguish thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and even attempt to alter their thoughts, recognizing emotions is an area that can pose significant difficulties during therapy.

In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy tends to require strong linguistic and abstract thinking abilities, which can represent a challenge for children on the autism spectrum. That is why therapists often need to introduce modifications to make CBT techniques more pertinent for autistic children. They may resort to more concrete, repetitive, and visual tactics, and focus on your child’s special interests to keep them engaged and motivated. Besides, therapists may have to incorporate frequent movement breaks or sensory activities for children who have problems with attention or sensory under- or over-reactivity.

How Often Should CBT Sessions Be Administered For Autistic Children?

Each child with autism is different and there is no one-size-fits-all CBT treatment schedule that will guarantee positive results. However, most children will need one session per week for a total of 12-16 sessions, with each treatment lasting between 30 and 60 minutes. 

What Is the Difference between CBT and ABA? 

Both cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and applied behavioral therapy (ABA) are considered to be evidence-based best practice treatments by the American Psychological Association. Depending on your child’s specific needs, either one or both of these therapies might be good options. 

However, you should keep in mind that while ABA is often the starting point in treating autistic children with more severe symptoms, CBT is recommended for children with milder symptoms of autism and those with high-functioning autism. Most children are between 2 and 6 years old when they begin ABA treatment. CBT is more appropriate for children above the age of 7 as well as teens and adults with autism spectrum disorder. 

ABA focuses on managing specific and immediate behavioral issues of autism spectrum disorder. At the same time, CBT takes a broader approach to address mental health problems that accompany autism, such as mood disturbances and anxiety. 

Finally, ABA therapists will often recommend as many as 40 hours a week of therapy, often in full-time, classroom-based programs. Your child will need anywhere between 25 to 45 hours a week of applied behavioral therapy for 1 to 3 years before you start seeing positive results. CBT, on the other hand, is time-restricted and it usually takes a few weeks to a few months to notice results.

The Best CBT Providers in the Atlanta Area

If you live in the Atlanta area, you may want to consider one of the following top-rated CBT providers for your child with autism:

Atlanta CBT

Atlanta CBT offers cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and positive discipline, in addition to providing parent training where you can learn the necessary skills to guide your child.

Anxiety Specialists of Atlanta

A team of CBT specialists provides a variety of treatment techniques, with a focus on exposure therapy and exposure and response prevention for anxiety disorders, OCD, and related conditions.

Thriveworks Atlanta

Thriveworks Atlanta CBT counselors and therapists are trained in child therapy and have extensive experience in dealing with various issues your child with autism may be facing.

Cognitive Atlanta

Founded in 1985, Cognitive Atlanta was the first treatment and training institute of its type in the Southeast. Their psychologists specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy for children, adolescents, and adults.

Atlanta’s Children Center for Developmental and Behavioral Health

This service offers family and individual therapy using cognitive behavioral strategies to help children with behavioral difficulties, anxiety, mood problems, and social skills. They specialize in treating autism, among several other conditions.

Atlanta Specialized Care

The Atlanta Specialized Care therapists have years of experience using cognitive behavioral therapy and other techniques to treat autistic children and adolescents who are dealing with depression, anxiety, and ADHD.


LifeStance Health 

This service allows you to find your nearest provider of CBT therapy in Atlanta and several other Georgia cities. 

World Immunization Week

World Immunization Week aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease. Immunization saves millions of lives every year and is widely recognized as one of the world’s most successful health interventions. We remind everyone of its importance and what it has done to improve the health and well-being of everyone.

Image commemorating World Immunization Week.

Every Kid Healthy Week

Every Kid Healthy Week is celebrated to spotlight all the efforts made to improve the health and wellness of children. It highlights the link between nutrition, physical activity and learning. Healthy kids are better prepared to learn and thrive!

Every Kid Healthy Week, April 19 -23

World Health Day

World Health Day is celebrated to shed light on important matters including mental health, maternal and child care, the importance of healthcare workers, and many more such issues to the forefront. Each year World Health Day is celebrated on April 7th. This year, World Health Day’s campaign aims to build a fair and healthier world. COVID-19 has highlighted the differentiating access to healthcare and the need for quality health care.

Image featuring a quote for World Health Day.