Feeling Helpless? Reframe “I Can’t” For Your Special Needs Child

Learned helplessness is defined by Google as a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed. It is thought to be one of the underlying causes of depression. But I think we need to question ourselves and our children more often and challenge this assumed defeat. This helplessness can become a bad habit and we need to find opportunities to make new, better habits.

The other day I was (once again) at the orthodontist with one of my kids. I should have used the restroom before I left work, but I knew we had this appointment and I didn’t want to lose any time. I made my way in the usual ridiculous traffic, picked up my son and we rushed along to the dentist. I practically ran from my car to the lobby, rode the elevator and hurried across the hall to the office…where I saw a teenage girl take the women’s room key and leave. I know it is a one-person bathroom so I wasn’t going to get in until she was finished.

I sat down, crushed, but figured it would only be another few minutes. The time stretched out and she was still not back. Then it hit me – why was I torturing myself? What would happen if I didn’t follow the standard practice? I stood up and took the men’s room key. I mean, all I needed was plumbing – does it really matter what the sign on the door says? I knew it was single occupancy so I wasn’t going to go barging in on a group of guys.

I remember when my child was younger and would tell me that she couldn’t read, yet she managed to navigate the television’s on-screen guide to find the show she wanted to watch. Sometimes the familiar “I can’t read” response was an excuse to get out of homework, sometimes it was a plea for attention or assistance and sometimes it was just a bad habit that no longer served any purpose.

So I urge you to question everything for yourself and for your child with special needs. Re-examine skills from time to time. Check back in on tasks that were challenging in the past. And also, take a long look at your thoughts and assumptions.

About the Author

Rosie Reeves is a writer and mother of three; including one with special needs. She works side-by-side with her daughter’s therapists, teachers and doctors. Rosie has also served as the Los Angeles Special Needs Kids Examiner. She can be reached at rosie327@aol.com. Rosie is a member of the PedSafe Expert team


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