Guest Blog

Help Needed, Please

20 Feb 2020 by Hope Johnson

Photo: Hope with one of her personal care attendants, Angela Hoke

We all need a little help now and again.  If a person has a disability, he or she will inevitably have to ask for assistance.  I have realized that it is perfectly okay to ask for help, that it ultimately smoothens the road of life making it more enjoyable.

...there is a balance between independence and the necessity of a helping hand.

As a young child, I had the determination to do as much as I could independently.  This strategy has served me well throughout my life, but some experiences have taught me that there is a balance between independence and the necessity of a helping hand. When attending primary and secondary schools, I found it difficult to muster the gumption to ask my teachers for assistance, even though questions flooded my mind.  I was self-conscientious of my physical disability and was afraid that I would be even more conspicuous if I asked questions in class.

I continued to experience this "fear" through college.  Although I tried my best to break out of my shell, I had great difficulty in "putting myself out there" even if it meant I suffered.   In that environment, it became essential for me to express my needs and wants.

This was a foreign concept; I had always been surrounded by and relied on individuals who could anticipate my needs and wants, without me even having to verbalize them.  Now, I was not only faced with people who did not understand me, but also did not seem to attempt to take the time to learn to know me or my way of communicating. Instead of working through this dilemma, I completely shut down, blaming myself for my challenges and wanting my Cerebral Palsy to magically disappear.  Ultimately, I left college, a sad and broken individual.

I realized I resisted asking for help when I needed it the most.

While recovering at home, I discovered the root of some of my unhappiness while I was away attending college.  I realized that I resisted asking for help when I needed it the most.  In time, I re-evaluated my position on the matter and realized that I could survive, and even thrive, if I only asked for some help.

 As time passed, I became interested in attending college again.  I applied and was accepted in the School of Humanities at Messiah College.  There, I found that professors were inevitably pleased if I engaged them in conversation.  As time continued, I was not afraid to ask for help, even inquiring about extra time to complete assignments. I also had a concrete support system for my personal care needs as well.  With this arrangement in place, I lived in a dorm room on campus for my undergraduate years.  An academic facilitator accompanied me to class and aided with my studies.  I thoroughly enjoyed this and relished the experience.

I found that my acceptance of help opened new doors.

In the end, I found that my acceptance of help had opened new doors. This was most evident to me when I crossed the stage to graduate with honors.  My willingness to ask for help proved to be a greater asset than I could have imagined.

Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at birth, Hope Johnson is an honors graduate of Messiah College in English and a freelance writer.  Hope writes to promote general awareness about issues facing the disability community. Her mantra is that anything is possible with persistence, determination, and above all, hope.