The notion of Learned Helplessness is extremely interesting to me at the moment.
Perhaps because I have been confronted with it in some form, and have had to really reflect on what it means for my child with a disability.
So what is it?
There are many different thoughts about it, and you can click on the link above to read a summary for yourself, but essentially, the idea is that people will only try at something for so long before they give up and just accept that this the way you do things, so therefore don't seek to learn that task.
'Learned helplessness' refers to 'the feeling that no amount of effort can lead to success' (Eggen & Kauchak, 1999, p. 412).
People may feel powerless and ineffective in certain circumstances. If this feeling is generalised to new circumstances, then people may exhibit learned helplessness (McInerney & McInerney, 1998). Learned helplessness leads to shame and self-doubt, with the eventual result that people give up without even trying. Repeated failure at a task can lead to learned helplessness. One solution is to design environments that provide people with opportunities for success. Another solution is to explicitly instruct people about the causes of success and failure. Effort and persistence, rather than natural ability, is an important determinant of success.
At a recent appointment with the Continence nurse for our yearly review (so we can get some funding for nappies), she questioned me about Ryley and what my long term goals were in terms of toileting.
I replied, as I usually do, that I don't ever expect him to be out of nappies.
Wrong answer Anna.
I was grilled.
Well, to be fair, it wasn't really a grilling, it was more about my thoughts being challenged, and rightly so.
We went through where Ryley was at in terms of his awareness, and I explained.
And even as I heard the words coming out of my mouth and the nurses excited eyes as she nodded her head, I knew, that I had been missing some of the vital awareness signs.
What the nurse gently pointed out to me, was that all the signs were there for Ryley that we could actually start to have some real successes with toileting if we were prepared to give it a go.
Because (and here is where the learned helplessness part comes in), Ryley has learnt to just use his nappies instead of learning to go to the toilet.
Suddenly I am looking at things differently again with Ryley.
I need to be doing more.
Does he sometimes give up because he knows someone else will do it for him (well, yes, I know that is true).
Time to get a degree in Occupational Therapy, Speech Pathology and Physiotherapy.
What are other's experiences? Is this 'learned helplessness' a thing designed to make us all feel even more guilty? Is it always such a bad thing?