Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Can't vs. Won't

My daughter has generally had a hard time learning to do multi-step tasks.  Getting dressed......buckling her own seatbelt........tying her shoes (which we're still working on, by the way).  When we talked to our OT about this a couple of years ago, her response was pretty much, "Well.....duh!"  And then she explained the sensory-processing and motor planning required for each of these tasks, and we had an "Ah-ha!"-moment.  Sort of. 

After talking to our OT, we began to understand that Jennica wasn't always just being lazy on the chance that she would wear someone down and they would dress her, or tie her shoes, or whatever.  (Remember......she's the youngest of four children.  There's generally someone around that would prefer to be accomodating rather than listen to her yell.)  But knowledge also gave us a new problem--How did we encourage independence even while knowing that she had some sensory issues with multi-step tasks?  Where did we draw the line between forcing her to step outside her comfort zone, or insisting that she do something that her brain is seriously not ready yet to process?  And as we all know, SPD does not equal stupid--these kids know how to manipulate parents/teachers/siblings into doing things for them just like any other kid.  So.....where did she really need our help, and where was she just yanking our chain?  In essence, how do we know that difference between whether she "can't" do something, or just "won't" do something?  And is there really a difference between "can't" and "won't" when there are sensory overload issues at play?

At age 6, Jennica can now dress herself and buckle her own seatbelt.  She's learning to tie her own shoes.  But we still struggle daily with the can't vs. won't issue.  To make matters worse, everyone in the house clashes over this issue!  Have you ever heard these arguments in your house?

-"Quit baby-ing her!  She can do it!  She just won't because she expects us to do it for her."
-"She's spoiled!  She's just whining so we will do it for her."
-"So let her sit there until she figures it out.  I'll bet if you tell her she can have a cookie (or a TV show, or whatever treat you have available) when she's done, she'll show you how fast she can do it!!"

And as parents, we've had some very heated discussions over this.  If one of us insists that she do something she can't or won't do, she runs to the other one crying.  Sound familiar? 

Jennica's motor planning issues are improving tremendously.  While I sometimes feel guilty for it, we've had to do some "tough love" at times.  Those moments of, "I'll wait for you in the living room.  Come out and we'll read when you get your pajamas on," are horribly painful when you're the one sitting in the living room waiting for 20 minutes and wondering if she is sitting in there naked and just trying to out-last your patience. 

So...now the tasks that we are tackling are increasing in difficulty.  She's writing her alphabet.  Finally.  She's working on shoe-tying.  Finally.  She can actually grab a coat and a backpack in the morning without help and head out to the bus-stop.  But when she pulls the old can't-vs.-won't-trick, I admit to still never being sure and always questioning whether she's yanking my chain, or if she just can't process the tasks in a logical order to accomplish the goal. 

1 comment:

Lindsay & Emma Bartholomew said...

Linked up to your blog through the spd network!
i think this is one of the hardest things to juggle with my little one! Cant or wont?? I find myself asking this question muliple times a day!!