While working at a school for the Deaf and differently-abled, I had a student who had trouble going up and down stairs. One day she and I were practicing navigating the cement stairway at one end of the school. Right foot down, left foot down, pause. I encouraged her, and she attempted the next step: right foot down, lean on my arm, left foot down, pause. I encouraged her again and let her lean on my arm.
I soon discovered my mistake. In her distress, she leaned harder and harder. Soon nearly her whole weight was on my arm. If I took away my support, she would fall the length of the cement stairwell. Yet I wasn’t sure how long I could stand under her not-insignificant weight. We were stuck. I looked down, at the long, long fall to the bottom of the cement stairwell. I braced my body, but I couldn’t bear her weight forever, and she wasn’t moving. I think she was scared too. As the staff, it was up to me to find a way out of the situation, yet I didn’t know what to do. I needed help.
No one was within sight. I began to call out. “I need some help over here! Can anyone come help me?” Trying not to sound too alarmed, for my student’s sake, I continued variations on this theme for some time. No one came.
We stood there, locked in our precarious situation, for what seemed an eternity, until another staff (who was Deaf herself) came by. I managed to support my student with only one arm long enough for me to sign with the other: I’m scared she’s going to fall. My co-worker immediately assisted me and we got the student to safety.
I later learned that this particular student now uses the elevator only, for safety reasons.
Note to self: Don’t verbally call for help in a school for the Deaf.