At many points in our lives, each of us needs the help of another. Whether we need help with a flat tire, directions when we’re lost, or comfort during a difficult time, none of us is immune to this need. For individuals with disabilities, the need for assistance is often more frequent or essential because of the many accessibility challenges both at home and in the community. Self-advocacy skills do not necessarily come naturally, however. Students must learn when to ask for help and from whom, as well as how to request assistance assertively and appropriately. Furthermore, most students with vision impairments need to practice this skill in order to become comfortable asking for help, as the prospect can be quite unnerving for many.
The following situations will help students with vision impairments develop increasing practice and comfort with requesting assistance, in progressively more challenging situations. These activities allow students to begin their self-advocacy work at home, a place where many children feel the most at ease, and progress to using these skills in school and in the wider community.
The following situations encourage the development of self-advocacy skills through practice and application. Instructors and family members should begin with situations that just exceed the particular student’s current comfort level, and progress from there. These activities should be introduced over time so that the student can become comfortable and confident at each level before moving forward. Please note that activities should be incorporated as much as possible into the student’s everyday life and in a natural environment. This way, the student is learning self-advocacy skills in real situations that she can immediately apply in other components of her life.
Request assistance on a task not related to the student’s vision impairment
- Example: Parent asks a child to do an unfamiliar chore in the house, such as taking out the trash, but does not provide guidance on how to do it or where to put the trash. The child must ask for assistance or directions.
Request assistance related to the student’s vision impairment
- Example: Family member asks the child to do a task that is not readily accessible (i.e start the dishwasher when the buttons do not yet have bump dots. The child must ask for help in learning the buttons or in marking them for future accessibility.
Ask for assistance from a teacher on a task that is not related to the student’s disability
- Example: Instructor asks the student to complete an assignment, but does not provide accurate materials or information. In order to complete the assignment, the student will need to ask for assistance from the teacher or another classmate.
Ask for assistance when the issue is related to the student’s vision impairment or additional disabilities.
- Example: Teacher passes out a worksheet to the class, but does not readily provide it in an accessible format. The student needs to ask for assistance to access the material. This can be done either directly in class or in private with the teacher afterward, depending on the student’s preference and comfort level.
In the community:
Ask for help from a community member on a task that is not related to the student’s vision impairment or additional disabilities.
- Example: Student asks an employee at a local grocery store if the store carries a certain product and where the item can be found.
Ask a community member for assistance on an issue related to the student’s vision impairment or additional disabilities
- Example: Student is in an unfamiliar area and must ask a pedestrian for assistance to determine where she is and what is around her.
- Families and instructors are encouraged to be creative in the situations where the student must learn to ask for help. The examples above are meant as a starting point only.
- This activity can be adapted based on a student’s skill level. Many students may need prompting in various situations to know when is an appropriate time to ask for help. Some students with multiple disabilities may benefit from working on when it is good to ask for help and developing a script for what to say.