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The desire to help others is perhaps why many of us have chosen our careers as educators, therapists, speech-language pathologists, and many other helping professions. At any age and in almost any circumstance, helping others can be profoundly rewarding and helps build personal connections with others. As social beings, we’re wired that way. That’s why it can be so baffling when our students and clients find it difficult to ask for and accept help from those who genuinely want to give it. The reasons can be many: fear of judgment, anxiety, shame, pride, a lack of awareness that they may need assistance, or not knowing the actual social and emotional process of how to do it. The reality is we all need support and guidance from others from time to time to achieve our social, academic, and career goals. Research shows that being able to know when and how to ask for help has been linked to higher academic and personal achievement in students (Chowdhury & Halder, 2019; Ryan & Pintrich, 1997). So, how do we teach our students and clients how to ask for help?
Asking for help is an essential life skill and social competency that emerges early in development. It first involves recognizing when you need assistance, identifying people or resources that can provide support, and then being able to make a request. This core competency enhances emotional intelligence by developing such skills as self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and relationship management (Barr, Dowden, & Hayne, 2019). These skills enable us to understand our strengths and struggles, manage negative emotions, recognize non-verbal cues, and communicate with others effectively.
People with social communication differences or challenges often have difficulty asking for help. Accordingly, they may need explicit instruction and plenty of practice in identifying when they need assistance, considering who is best suited to provide support, and then using language to make a request. Neurodivergent individuals may also struggle with seeking help given the executive functioning skills that involve planning, organizing, initiating, and monitoring behavior. Asking for help also requires social competencies, such as social inferencing, perspective taking, and problem solving. By teaching specific strategies for asking for help, we can help them build self-advocacy and independence (Stokes & Kaur, 2020), as well as foster perspective-taking and problem-solving competencies.
Asking for help is also an essential social and emotional skill that can be developed through the lens of CASEL or SEL frameworks. By recognizing their emotions and the situation at hand, people can identify when they need help and are more likely to ask for it. However, requesting assistance can also require a sense of self-awareness and the ability to manage one's own emotions, particularly if there are feelings of shame or anxiety associated with needing and asking for help. By understanding that seeking assistance is a sign of strength, social learners can learn to work through these emotions and ask for help when they need it. Additionally, expressing gratitude toward those who offer assistance and acknowledging the benefits of collaboration and teamwork can foster positive relationships and a culture of mutual support. By incorporating CASEL or SEL frameworks into our teaching how to ask for help, our students and clients can strengthen their emotional intelligence and build positive relationships with those around them.
At home, parents and caregivers can cultivate asking for help learning by encouraging children to seek assistance from family members when they encounter challenges or need guidance. This can be done by modeling a growth mindset, highlighting the benefits of asking for help, and providing praise and encouragement for help-seeking behavior. In school, teachers and other interventionists can create opportunities for students to practice asking for help, such as group work or peer tutoring. Educators can also provide step-by-step instruction on what language to use when looking for help, model effective help-seeking behavior, and provide feedback and encouragement to students who ask for help.
By fostering help-seeking behavior, we enable our students, clients, and children to facilitate learning, build resilience, and nurture self-confidence and belief in their abilities to take on challenges and accomplish their goals.
Asking for Help Free Stuff
Watch our latest free webinar: How to Ask for Help: Why It's Hard & How We Can Help. Based on our years of practice and anecdotes from teachers working with students who struggle to ask for help, we’ve created a simple strategy that helps diffuse students’ help-seeking anxiety. The How to Ask for Help Strategy Card empowers students to specify the kind of help they need and how much. Click here to watch the free video lesson and get the free downloadable How to Ask for Help Strategy Card.
Barr, J. J. F., Dowden, A. N., & Hayne, H. (2019). The social-emotional aspects of giftedness: Insights from neuroscience and implications for public education. Roeper Review, 41(3), 205-219.
Chowdhury, S., & Halder, S. (2019). Academic help-seeking: A constructivist approach in learning and achievement. International Journal of Education and Management Studies, 9(4), 227-231.
Ryan, A. M., & Pintrich, P. R. (1997). Should I ask for help? The role of motivation and attitudes in adolescents’ help seeking in math class. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(2), 329-341.
Stokes, L. Y., & Kaur, N. (2020). Autism spectrum disorder: Executive functioning and role of assistive technology. International Journal of Disability, Development, and Education, 67(4), 452-473.