Thursday, January 22, 2015

Being Needed Con't

Yesterday's discussion was wonderful!


I don't have much new to add to what's already been said, and said well, in the comments. I just wanted to acknowledge the obvious, that the 'need to be needed' or 'the need to feel helpful' are needs that exist outside the paid care provider role. I think we all need those things, I think it's part of who we are as people. I know for myself that the things that I do for others, the things that make me feel needed, are amongst the most important reasons I have a good sense of self esteem and self worth - it just plain makes me feel good about myself to be helpful, to be needed, to have skills that are valued by others.

So when the care provider said, in the scene I presented yesterday, "I just need to feel helpful," they were simply being honest with the motivation behind their action. I think we all agree that the 'needs' that need to be met here are the individual with a disability who is being supported. But I think, too, that it would have been possible for the worker to have their needs, specifically the need to feel helpful, fulfilled too. This isn't an either / or situation.

Let me explain. For a brief time when I was back in University I did some work with kids in a special school. I giggle at those words now because, whatever else it was, it decidedly wasn't special, but I didn't know that then. I found that those moments when I was able to hold back my hands, hold tight to my tongue and simply be there as a supportive presence while kids did things on their own - to be there to see their faces turn to me, glad of a witness to their success, and smile was such an amazing thing. The teacher there, who had a face that never looked kind and a heart that always was, said to me, sometime the most helpful thing you can do, is wait.

We tend to see help as an action, as something done. Anyone who works with people who are learning new skills or developing independence needs to know that help occurs when inaction replaces action. Where waiting for a bright shiny new skill to show itself and be demonstrated. Those outside this field of endeavour simply wouldn't understand the joy behind this sentence:

I went to the store with JJ today and I stood there and did nothing while he paid for it himself.

Both needs could have been met.

Only one was.

That's the tragedy.


I want to address a comment made by Feminist Atavar, which was picked up by others later. The question was asked, "Why did I say anything at all?" The suggestion was that my statement could have, even though I didn't intend it, put pressure on both of the others in the store line up. That comment made me pause and think, 'Why did I speak up?'

I don't know the experience of other power wheelchair users, but my experience is that with my gender, my weight, and the way the power chair increases the sheer 'bulk' of me that people often feel pressure for some odd reason. As an example, on going, underground, between two halves of a mall, there are two ramps on either side of a step down walkway. When I appear at the top of one and look to see if it's free, it's narrow so only one person can use it at a time, if someone sees me up top, they nearly start running! Even people using walkers!! That's when I say, 'Don't rush, I'm comfortably seated,' or 'Take your time, I'm comfortably seated,' and typically people then slow down.

So when I'm in a line up and someone sees me behind them, I say it as kind of a joke, but also as a signal that it's OK, I'm really not in a hurry. I had hoped that was what happened here in this situation. However, I can see where maybe it wasn't helpful.

That's what I like about these kinds of discussions - I'm asked to think differently or more deeply - which is always a good thing.


Thanks to all who participated in the comment section!


Anonymous said...

Being helpful without asking permission can be very intrusive. I have had great teachers (people with disabilities with and without power chairs). I see people that think benevolence is a kind thing. I have learned from the people I support that benevolence can be just as debilitating to someone's personal growth as abuse can be. Helping is wonderful. I love to help. But, try to remember to ask if the person needs your assistance. Cindi

Ettina said...

When I was working with developmentally disabled kids (most of whom couldn't tell me if they needed help, at least not verbally), at first I wasn't sure how much help they'd need dressing or undressing, and I went by the rule that if they didn't seem to be doing it themselves, I should help.

Then, much later, I realized that some of the kids seemed to have a form of learnt passivity, and if I pretended I was really busy, or even left the room (making sure they were safe alone, of course), they'd often show self-dressing skills I didn't realize they had. I wondered at the time why they didn't try to do those things when I was there to help, but now I think maybe they ran into a few too many helpers who needed to be helpful more than they needed these kids to develop autonomy.