Can vs. Can’t The Case of Teaching Self sufficiency

Dec 26, 2011
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What does self-determined and goal-directed really mean?  I think it means learning from modeled behavior regardless of who teaches it.  It means learning and modeling ethics, conduct, skills, and general behaviors to function and positively interact with family members, peers, friends, educators, and others we meet in school and employment environments, and in the larger community.

My parents built the foundation of my future by creating structure, teaching limits, and fostering a ‘can versus can’t’ philosophy. That can versus can’t philosophy became critically important in the context of my disability.  When I was about five or six years old, I would frequently ask one of my brothers to go and bring me my canes, backpack, a drink, a snack, or a toy.  I was perfectly capable of walking to get the desired items.  Either one of my siblings would initially go and get whatever I requested.  For a short time I was lulled into a false and intoxicating sense of power.  I enjoyed directing or ordering my brothers to do as I wished.

The “go and fetch” routine would soon be broken with a retort of, “Go and get what you want yourself.”  My brothers were not paid butlers or servants.   My family smartly broke a bad habit that was forming.  I was not allowed to use my walking issues for a selfish end.  Just because I walked with canes or crutches did not mean I was entitled to special privileges.  I was capable of completing and was expected to complete 99 percent of the directives and tasks that were outlined within the Wiley household.  I quickly learned that no one was going to complete tasks for me just because I walked with walking aids. I was expected to unload the dishwasher, clean the bathroom, and make my own bed.  My parents set expectations of self-sufficiency.

Disability would not be an excuse for why I would not accomplish a task or a goal.

The foundations of self-determination really begin when a positive “can do” philosophy is cultivated and modeled.  My parents modeled positive and expected behavior for all of their children.  Whether a person is a parent, caregiver, or teacher, instilling structure, limits, and guiding choice is what self-determined and goal directed is really about.

Resources on Self Determination:

Author: Kerry

  • BobLujano

    The key moment of this piece was that your parents set the expectation. Your brothers followed along and you became the person that you are today. Could you imagine where you would be if they didn’t set the expectation? Maybe no where.