Why Focus on the Can’ts?

Hello.  This is the face of a disability.  I think that it’s pretty cute.

My son Niko has Williams Syndrome.  He was diagnosed when he was about a year old.  Williams is becoming more common, but when he was diagnosed, we hadn’t heard of it.  It was a crazy mystery that messed with his genes.  He had heart problems.  He couldn’t process calcium and he couldn’t eat certain foods.  There were physical and cognitive delays.  He went into kidney failure.

When your child struggles with a disability, people tend to focus on what he or she can’t do.  “He can’t climb stairs.  He can’t speak.  He can’t understand what you’re telling him.”  Well, all of this is true, but it’s the wrong way of looking at it.  I don’t see a man walking down the street, point, and say, “He can’t physically birth children.”  I don’t define myself by saying, “I can’t reach something from the top shelf without a chair.  Hello, I’m Mercedes, and I can’t do handstands.”  That isn’t the way we typically think, so we do we do it when it comes to disabilities?

My son is seven now.  He is learning to say a few words.  He can sing.  He can give kisses, recognize when you’re sad, and get himself a drink of water.  He is doing so much more than he was doing even a year ago.  Why focus on the can’ts?  Why not focus on the cans?  It’s more comfortable for all of us.

24 Comments on “Why Focus on the Can’ts?”

  1. You are amazing and your family is amazing too.

    I can only aspire to the positive attitude you’ve got – it can only bring good things.

  2. You are so right. And it is wrong. I don’t know why we do it.

    Not long ago, people with disabilities were institutionalized. Locked away so society did not have to deal with them. We’ve come a long way since then, but we do lock them up figuratively if they have to live in a world of “can’t.”

    We even do this with children who don’t have disabilities. We assume they “can’t” do something b/c they are only X months/years old. But kids prove they are capable of far more than we give them credit for all the time.

    God bless you and your family. I’m so happy for your son that you have this attitude. He’s very lucky.

    And btw, yes, he is very cute! 😉 And happy! He reflects all the love he receives.

  3. Well, he’s pretty much the happiest 7-year-old I’ve ever met. And so much of that is a credit to your positive outlook on … everything!

    Also, this is still one of my very favorite photos. Ever. 🙂

  4. Mercedes, you’re amazing. This is what the world needs more of and I truly admire you. Thank you so much. You are inspiring and wonderful.

  5. My little sister has Down Syndrome and she has a hole in her heart. Doctors said she wouldn’t live. Now she’s happy, healthy, graduated from high school and she’s 21.
    We don’t use the word “can’t” in our house.
    Your son is wonderful Mercedes and so are you! 🙂

  6. Thank all of you for reading and commenting! It means a lot to me. I think that the more we discuss disabilities, the less mysterious and frightening they are. Niko? Is a hoot. Sure, it’s a challenge sometimes, but he makes my life brighter.

    Also, thanks, Rachel, for taking such a fantastic picture! That’s why you’re my go-to photographer. 😀

  7. He’s beautiful. My heart goes out to you for your strength and for sharing this with all of us.

    Positive thoughts are what get us through the tough spots and show us that, as you said…we can achieve things.

  8. hi,

    my son also has william syndrome and now he is ten.

    im proud to say that he can do what other kids can do..he can walk, talk, sing, wash his own plates, sweep the floor and playing warcraft (not pro though..)and fluent with the internet..

    my worries is that he does not want to write, read and count..

    any suggestion..



    the only

  9. Hi honeymah! Ten?? It sounds like he can do a lot! 🙂

    Niko is the opposite. He loves letters and numbers. In fact, he’s a little bit obsessive. But right now he struggles with things like holding brooms and washing his plate. He’s started brushing his hair, and that’s delightful.

    I’m sure you’re already doing this, but we just keep exposing him to things over and over, hoping that it will click. Naturally, like yourself, we want nothing but the best for him. But I’ve also come to a realization that is very liberating:even if he never learns to do some of the things that we hope he’ll do, it’s okay. Say that the worse case scenario is that your son never learns how to read. We’re taught that not reading is the worst thing possible! How horrible! How terrible! And I’m a writer, so naturally I feel strongly about reading. But if he never learns, THAT IS OKAY. There are books on tape. People will help him read the applications and forms. Definitely hope and keep trying to help him, of course, but don’t let the pressure break you. We have enough pressure on us as it is. But these kids are constantly surprising us with the things that they pick up. They’re joys, aren’t they?

    Are you on Facebook? There are a lot of mothers with children who have Williams Syndrome on there. Maybe somebody else has more suggestions.

    Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure. 🙂

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