Autism And Shoes

Autism And Shoes

Declan didn’t used to be too particular about his clothes and shoes. With clothing, he still isn’t. Luckily he has a Mom who is very fashionable and runs a children’s consignment business so he’ll never have to worry about comfortable clothing that also looks fantastic. (Neither will I, which I appreciate.)

Declan’s Autism And Shoes

The exception to Declan’s willingness to be a four year old fashion icon is when it comes to his shoes. He’ll wear short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, pants, shorts and all in varying materials and textures. Declan refuses to wear hats, but everything else, clothing-wise, he’s perfectly comfortable in. He’ll perform the occasional pant leg adjustment, but he’s not repulsed by any clothing and we mark that under the win column.

When it comes to his shoes he has to have the swoosh. If it’s not Nike, it’s not for Declan. Luckily and thankfully for us he’s attached himself to a brand that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. We’re not necessarily brand loyal people, at all, but it’s very comforting to know that Declan’s preferred footwear will be available for the foreseeable future.

One of Dec’s last pair of shoes before rejecting everything but Nikes was coincidentally called the “Declan”. A quick google search yields several results for shoes named Declan, but his were boots. Kind of the opposite end of the spectrum from his current shoes.

Dec has autism and one of his challenges is with new shoes.
Declan in his “Declan” shoes.

Before the Declan boots, he wore blue sandals for an entire summer. The ease of sandals was really nice but it yielded an incredible amount of foot filth.

Declan is autistic and he has challenges with shoes because of it.
Declan in his sandals with muddy feet.

Declan currently has a blue and orange pair of Nikes as well as a black pair with white trim. They are the second pair of each that he’s owned with his prior pairs being a size smaller.

When we realized that Declan had an “ism” with his footwear, we initially tried to change things up so he wouldn’t get stuck in a rut. That didn’t go well. At all. We had a couple other (non Nike) pairs of shoes that we tried to get him to wear while getting ready to go to therapies in the morning. He’d see them and become rigid. We’d put his socks on and with the first approach of the different shoe he would start kicking his feet like mad. If we would manage to actually get a shoe on he would melt down until it was off and then he was fine.

We didn’t push this too much because we didn’t want him to reject shoes altogether or have this stress manifest itself in another way like a hunger strike. Declan has exercised his control a few times in a reactionary way. We stuck with his two pairs of Nikes and made it work.

When Declan began to approach the size limit of those pairs we were faced with a choice. Did we buy new, different shoes and fight through it and see what happened? Or, did we scour the internet to find the next size up of these exact same two pairs of shoes that had conveniently been discontinued. We hit the pavement on Ebay and about eighty dollars later we had two new pairs of shoes for Declan.

We are currently coming to the end of these size twelve shoes. Declan is four years old and has thankfully plateaued a little bit, growth-wise, but he is still sprouting like a weed. His feet have always been very Fred Flintstone-esque so we knew our time in these shoes was going to be very limited. Regardless, it crept up on us and here we are in the same position.

We currently have, in our possession, two brand new pairs of Nike shoes, Ozzie thirteen, and they are slightly different styles. We’re going to go for it, change it up, fight through it and see what happens. Declan has continued to develop, he has better communicative skills and stronger coping skills and we feel as though we can get through this upcoming change.

Some of our biggest challenges have risen from the most unexpected places. I suppose partially due to the very nature, had we expected them perhaps they wouldn’t be such a challenge… but this whole shoe thing has been a really interesting one.

Declan won’t wear boots so that means no outdoor activities in the winter (none of us care for these anyway) but also no letting Declan walk through snow that’s more than a dusting. Wet feet in the Minnesota winter coupled with a little boy who can’t or won’t tell us his feet are wet is not a good combination.

It means that we can’t just go and try on a new pair of shoes. We can’t go to Target and look through all the shoes and see if Dec likes them. We can’t ask him if they feel okay or if they pinch.

We have to order them and get them home to the place Declan is safe and comfortable. Then we introduce the shoes to Declan and let him examine them and just kind of have the shoes in his space for a bit. We might go through a few narratives about his new shoes. Talk through how his feet are growing and his current shoes won’t fit for much longer and finally attempt placing them on his feet.

It has pretty much been built in to our normal now, but all these things are little bullet points of mindfulness for us. It reminds me of leaving notes for the handful of times we’ve had a baby sitter in four years. They end up being at least a page of small print instructions on exactly how to do things so that Declan will function. It’s just things that we DO now. For someone walking in to the situation, how are they supposed to know that Declan has issues processing anything different than his blue and orange Nikes or his black Nikes with the white trim anywhere near his feet?

This is Declan. It’s who he is. He’s changing and growing through it and he’ll continue to surprise us as he always has.

In the grand scheme of things, this is not one of our major challenges. We have eating and feeding challenges that trump anything shoe-related. We have gone through several stages and phases that were so consuming, crushing, mentally and physically exhausting that shoes were so far off our radar as to be non existent. This is, however, another in the list of features that is not listed in “The Autism Handbook” every parent receives upon diagnosis.

If this next round of shoes doesn’t work, we’ll figure out something. That’s what we do. As much as I don’t feel like an adult, technically I am. As an adult, that’s what we do. We figure things out. And, as a parent to someone who can’t necessarily figure it out for himself, it’s my purpose to help.

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7 thoughts on “Autism And Shoes

  1. Declan is the luckiest boy in the world to have such wonderful parents. This Angel was chosen to be born to you, someone knew where he belonged. ❤️

    1. We are so lucky to have him! He fits our family perfectly and somehow we all just get each other. He’s a wonderful boy.
      So is Silas. But Silas is really in to being two right now. Two sucks.

  2. I wondering if you post on the NIKE page, or email the CEO, they might have some ideas. Many big companies sell different versions of their shoes in different markets. Like the Declan might be more available in say Europe, than the US?? And these companies usually eill go out of their way to help you. Just a thought.

    1. If moving forward with slightly different shoes doesn’t work we may very well take a route similar to this! Ideally we’d like Declan to be able to wear different types of shoes without issue which is why we’re trying to change it up now.
      I’ll begin looking up C-levels within Nike just in case though!

  3. Reminiscent of our childhoods.
    Our mild obsessions with AKB’s and the like.
    Manifestations of ourselves in other generations is just fruit of the bountiful tree.

    I’m fascinated, (always have been) by how different people react to different situations. Especially younger people. No context.

    I wonder when something is a big deal to me… if it’s a big deal for a reason that I can pinpoint.

    Here is Declan. Shoes are a big deal to him.
    I get that there might not be a fathomable or discernible reason.
    However… could it just be the symbol?
    If so… could you simply… glue the nike symbol onto other shoes?

    Maybe he has an affinity for the goddess Nike.
    I would like to think, for now, that his obsession with nike, is a reverence for victory, and overcoming.
    Yeah, I know. It’s not that.

    You are a remarkable family.
    Thank you for sharing these stories.

    1. Thank you. We are kind of hoping that it’s as simple as the swoosh. We’ll find out soon when he moves up in to his next size Nikes. They are different enough, stylistically, that he’ll notice. We hope, though, that the presence of the Nike logo will be enough to make him okay with the change. If so, it’s our next step toward opening up a world of footwear!

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