Friday, 5 August 2016

To Help or Not to Help (Part 2): When to Say "No Thanks!"

This is the second post about the complicated business of offering and receiving help. The reason for this topic can be found in Part 1.

Strangers will often approach me and offer to help me to load my mobility equipment into the car.  I always say, "No, thank you," for good reasons:

  • I don't know the person and they don't know me. 
  • I don't know their physical capacity or their manner.
  • They are unfamiliar with my equipment.
  • They are likely to be untrained about how to handle the equipment and have no idea about their commitment should I accept their offer.
  • What happens if the person injures themselves while 'helping'?  I don't want to be responsible for that and I am not insured for that.
  • What if they break my equipment?  I have had my expensive equipment damaged by total strangers in the course of taxi rides, supermarket queues etc.  They would be more careful if they knew how many thousands of dollars a basic wheelchair costs.
  • I would need to explain how to do the job in order to help; basically an on-the-spot training course which uses up precious energy and time and is harder than just doing the job myself.
  • Like the aforementioned car park example, I know my equipment, I know how to handle it, I've been trained and I know what I am doing.  It is quick and easy for me to just do it myself.

Strangers are quick to offer help on impulse. I am sure most people who have offered to load my equipment don't think about the consequences outlined above.

The lesson:
me when I say
"No, thank you, I can do it myself."



Related Posts on Lupey Loops

"To Help or Not To Help (Part 1)", 29 July 2016:


  1. Great posts! As a Special Education teacher I focus on self-advocacy and independence - teaching students to ask when they need help but also to do the most they can for themselves. As teachers, we can sometimes enable a sense of learned helplessness by stepping in too soon. We too need to trust students when they say 'no thank you' and let them try (and sometimes fail) on their own. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You make a great point, Sarah, and welcome back! Look at the way anyone learns: it is a matter of trying, failing, trying again regardless of disability or not.

      I agree with you about learned helplessness. Often people see 'disability' and want to jump in and 'help' straight away and sometimes parents can be overprotective, especially when they perceive a child's frailties.

      Surely, 'learned helplessness' undermines a person's spirit and confidence? People need confidence to take risks and to learn so it is incredibly important for children and students to maintain a healthy self esteem. There really are broader consequences to be considered around this issue of 'to help or not to help'.

      Sometimes, I get fed up with having to limit my activities due to illness and just long to be able to do more. With a fluctuating condition it is difficult to judge exactly how well (or not) the body is. For those reasons, I will occasionally push myself to discover the limits for myself, especially when the limits can change. I know I might fail. I'm prepared for the risk and the consequences of taking the risk.

      Ultimately, whether I fail or not, I come out of the experience feeling more confident in my own judgment about my capabilities which makes it easier to say 'No, thank you' but also easier to ask for help when it is truly warranted. Asking for help can be extremely hard and that is a topic for a future blog post about 'help'.

      Thanks for adding an important element to the discussion. Good luck with your work as a Special Ed. teacher. It must be very rewarding. All the best! :-)