Archive for the ‘Can’t not won’t. but not impossible!’ Category




Learning that my kids with FASD actually cannot do some things and are not willfully, or intentionally, NOT doing those things, was the biggest relief to me!

While raising up my nine, I had expectations of all of my children, but it seemed that Jon was always falling short. I was frustrated often, along with his teachers. I didn’t realize he had FASD until he was in high school, so we did not understand all that we were dealing with. It was quite painful on a constant basis. There were often upset teachers, principals, friends and classmates, with Jon.

He never stopped talking. I mean NEVER!  He never had alot to say but he found a way to talk all the time anyway. Most of it was silly talk. I found it odd that a kid who would never stop talking, had nothing to say to me when we were alone in the car. This same thing happened if he was at a doctor’s office, psychological doctor etc. So doctor’s didn’t recognize a problem with ADHD. He was always this quiet little thing with them.

I think I figured that out now that we have learned so much about FASD. When Jon was with his friends, he was very stimulated all the time. Therefore his response was to talk and talk and talk.

When he was with me alone, things were calm. Since his talking was usually nonsense and goofy stuff, I wasn’t going to chat like that with him. So I would always ask him things to draw him into a conversation and he would give me simple answers. Often those simple answers were , I don’t know, I don’t remember, or he might tell me a lie because that is often the way kids with FASD cover for their lack. They make stuff up. If they don’t know, or can’t remember, they find out that they can make stuff up. It seems to satisfy mom and dad until one finds out that it is a lie, and then they are in trouble, but they don’t remember what they lied about, so they lie again.

Parents are often frustrated when their child lies because they want their kid to become an upstanding and honest citizen and they feel like they are a failure if their kid is lying to them.

What I didn’t understand then and I do now, is that my child could not tell the truth all the time because he either didn’t know it, didn’t remember it, or didn’t want to be in trouble because he has had so much pain in his life already that he has to protect himself.

I sure wish someone would have explained that to me when I was raising up my kids with FASD. It would have saved me a whole lot of frustration and pain.

However, here is where I often see today’s parent of kids with FASD missing the mark. They are now getting the message that their kids “Can’t not Won’t” , so they are accepting that their child is brain injured and that is the end.

NO NO NO!!! We cannot do that. If we do, we are going to stunt our children’s growth and possibilities.  Maybe at that point in their life, they truly “can’t not won’t”, in some area, BUT we must still continue to teach and discipline. I do not advocate that we live in frustration and discouragement over what our child cannot do. I never knew that my kids had FASD, so I treated them all the same. YES there were times when we are far more frustrated and upset then we should have, or could have been. BUT I continued to teach and give my kids consequences for their digressions and today I have some pretty awesome young adults who CAN in alot of areas that they use to not be able to. They did learn.  My daughter Desi RARELY lies to me now. She no longer steals from me. She learned. I didn’t just accept that she could not learn these things. I kept working at it. I would say that she and Jon required twice as much work as any of my other kids, but it was so worth it. All things are possible if we believe and work at it.

My kids are young adults now and there are still areas that they “Can’t, not Won’t”, struggle in. I am still educating and learning new ways to help them. I believe that there is a whole lot out there that I am just now getting myself about FASD. It is a complex issue.

I am now studying the book that Jodee Kulp wrote “Our FAScinating Journey”available at: It is very educational about the brain. It was a bit deep for me when I first read it, but now it is clicking with me. I am FAScinated by it. lol.  Our brains are so complex. I will be adding some more of my understanding about the brain as I continue my series on parenting kids with FASD and individual issues relating to it.

Every day Desi is an education for me. As she has grown older and her peers passed her in high school with development, I began to see where she was struggling the most. It kind of just showed up when she peaked in certain areas and didn’t seem to be able to get passed them.

The biggest areas that she struggles with today are memory and organization. These two struggles effect every area of her life though.

So in these areas, Desi “Can’t not Won’t”. She cannot do math in her head. She cannot get all that I say to her at one time. Her processing ability is slow and her memory doesn’t save the first words with the next words.

Have you ever listened to an auctioneer? Do you get every word that they say? You mind has to go really fast to pick it all up. One thing that helps is that they are speaking the same thing over and over, so you can get it. But let’s pretend that an auctioneer was trying to explain to you how to fix a washing machine.  They gave you ten tasks in a row that were step by step fixes for the washing machine and they gave it to you really fast in their auctioneer language.

Did you get all those steps? Do you remember them all? Could you now go and fix the washer? I would certainly be lost on the first step, because ONE, I don’t know how to fix a washer, TWO, they spoke it so fast that my mind couldn’t process it all that fast and Three, I have no interest in fixing a washing machine. I am going to hire someone to do it, so forget that.

So in that instant, I “can’t, not Won’t”, but I am also Won’t because I am going to hire someone. I refuse to learn all that stuff.

Well now let’s take one of our kids and their slower processing brain and tell them to do the dishes.

Now you wash the dishes, you dry the dishes, you clean out the dirty sink, then you wash off the counters and clean out the dish cloth.

My Desi has heard wash the dishes, but the rest was too fast for her brain to process AND she doesn’t want to do the dishes, so it doesn’t interest her to remember the rest.

Of course her memory struggles anyway, but some of us parents are going to see that our kids will get things that are important to them and wonder how they got that and not the dishes.

Does this make sense?  Ok, this is going to sound like I am taking my adult child back to kindergarten, but our kids are visual learners, not so much audio. Their minds can see pictures better then they can process words.

So if I make a chart with a small picture of each step of the dishes and put it in front of Desi, she can easily understand how to do the dishes.

If that same auctioneer made me a chart with pictures of how to fix the washing machine, well I might actually get the idea that I can fix that washer, if it is physically possible for me to do those things.

Is this making sense? It is to me and I SO WISH that I knew this when my kids were little.

Ann Yurcek author of Tiny Titan, Journey of Hope, also available at: ,is a close friend of mine. She has raised five adopted children with FASD and now currently has a sixth little one.  We brain storm together often about how to help our kids. She has some pretty awesome ideas and I am learning alot from her.

What ever I learn, I am sharing here because we all need this. So we have been discussing about our kids with FASD and how we just talk too much to them.  We need to go back to kindergarten and find out what kindergarten teachers use. They work alot more with visuals. You will see a kindergarten class room is full of wall pictures. The alphabet is on the wall. Numbers are on the wall. They use flash cards.

This is because our younger kids are visual learners, not so good with audio. WHY? Visual is concrete. Audio is not always concrete and often abstract. Our kids very often are stuck in concrete thinking. Their brain’s are not able to visualize abstract understanding.

Often people with Total Brain Injuries (TBI) have  impaired abstract thinking  that is frequently associated with reduced foresight, judgment, insight, reasoning, creativity, problem solving, and mental flexibility.

Ok for today we are concentrating on abstract thinking.  Math requires abstract thinking, which is why our kids often have great difficulty with math.

Desi cannot add things in her head. She gets very frustrated with very simple numbers if she has to add them in her head.

This week we had a huge issue with her paycheck. I have been trying to help her understand how bills operate since she got her new job in September and is not 18.

So in my educational mind, I am telling her if she has a pay check of 309.00 and her bills add up to 200.00, her food is 50.00 for two weeks, she has 59.00 left. But again in my “educational mind, that thinks this is just so darn freeking easy to figure out, I just simply ask her to do the math. She  can get the 200 plus 50, then she struggles to figure out what is left. Not easy for her at all. I plug in “Terry she cannot do this” into my brain and recognize that she “Can’t not Won’t” add numbers.

Then she says, wait Mom, that can’t be right. There has to be more. OH YEAH, I get 50.00 allowance too. WHAT?  Where did she get that?

Well before I started trying to teach her how to budget her money, I simply gave her 50.00 from her two week paycheck and I paid her bills.

Some how she put that together with her money and thought she had both!  I wanted to laugh and freak out at the same time. My poor girl cannot figure this out.  What am I going to do?

That is when Ann came up with a plan. Get her some play money. Since her check is direct deposit and we don’t have the money in hand, we needed a visual.

So I got the play money, counted out 309.00 and had her pay me the bills out of it. It worked! She got it!  She could see the money. She could not get it from me telling her she had 59.00 and actually thought that she had 50 more because she can’t reason all that in her own mind. It was confusing to her, but when she had the money right in front of her to see, she got it.

So Desi honestly “can’t, not won’t”  do math in her head, but when given a visual, she can do the impossible!!!!!!!  She can also use a calculator pretty well.

So yes knowing and understanding that our kids have areas from brain injury in utero, where they honestly “can’t not won’t”, helps us parents so much with our frustration and pain over their lack and behaviors that are puzzling.  However just because they appear to “can’t not won’t” in a certain area, does not mean that it is impossible to teach them. We need to keep trying and try different if there is a different way. It may seem alot harder with them. It may take alot more effort. It may be totally again’st what we believe or think, but we can change too. We can learn what works with our child and put that into action. It is when we are willing to put those things into action that our “can’t not won’t” child, CAN!!!

Thank you Lord that with YOU, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!

Terry Quinn