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 (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 shoes. It wasn’t an easy process. Years of struggling to tie my shoes led me to wearing Velcro sneakers and slip on dress shoes. 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. 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 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 I bought new shoes that had laces on them for the first time.

I only hope this a milestone all of your loved ones will be able to reach in the future.