By Katherine Schneider, Retired Clinical Psychologist and Author
In school, you may have had an IEP or a 504 Plan and/or a disability services office to help you meet your accessibility needs. Now, you’ll get to build your own team.
Building a team takes work– training allies in how to and not to help, trading help (or baked goods) for help, and saying enough “pleases” and “thank you’s” to make your grandmother proud.
Asking for help doesn’t come easy to me. I’d rather do it myself. A friend once made me a beautiful wall hanging with the word “Ask” on it in braille dots made out of buttons to form the dots. The loving work she put into making it helped get it through my head that asking is okay. I often find that I need to remember this. When they’re doing something wrong, it’s often someone’s first time to help. I still have to give myself a pep talk about how it’s a sign of strength to ask for what I need, especially when the first ask doesn’t work out.
Asking a little bit from several people rather than a lot from a few people has worked well for me. That way, if one person is busy, I can just go down my mental list to the next one.
The care and feeding of a team takes time and energy. Trying to channel an internship supervisor who told me repeatedly, “Honey attracts more flies than vinegar.” helps me be more gracious and grateful. Spreading honey doesn’t always work in team building or facing down discrimination, but it has worked for me more often than being demanding and threatening.
As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” You’re the captain of your team. Build it. Maintain it. Use it, and you’ll be a winner.
Katherine Scheider lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.