Recently I’ve become really annoyed with a small addition people make to their sentences when talking to me. For example: I’m waiting to cross the street and a man comes up to me and says: “I know you can do this on your own, but I’m going to help you.” Another example would be: I’m waiting on the train and a woman says “I know you can find the door, but I’m going to guide you,” and then she grabs me almost dislocating my shoulder as she drags me in the door. If you know that I can do something then why bother to force assistance on me at all? I know that they can cross the street or get on the train or tie their shoes (yes, people have tried to tie my shoes for me while standing on the sidewalk), yet I don’t bother to help them because I trust that, since they made it this far, they can probably get to their destination successfully.
The answer to my question of “why bother ‘helping’ at all?” is simple: they don’t believe a word they’ve said. by adding on “, but” you negate anything you’ve said before: “I know you can cross the street on your own, but I’m going to help you” translates to: “You can’t cross the street alone.” If you honestly believed that a person could indeed do something unaided you wouldn’t have mentioned it in the first place. the “, but” is just used to mask the patronizing tone of the “request.”
I’m not saying that offering assistance is always bad, but the fact remains that it should be offered to and not forced upon on the person. Replace “I know you can, but …” with “can I help you?” or “do you need any assistance?” Or, better yet, wait for the person to ask you for any assistance. Independent Living is about making decisions and being in control, I know when I need help and I know how to request it if necessary, I would prefer for people to assume competence rather than “help” me when I don’t need it.