The purpose of this study was to describe the meaning of help in physical education as perceived by students with physical disabilities. The experiences of early, middle, and late elementary school aged students (n = 12) were captured using the phenomenological methods of individual and focus group interviews, field notes, and visual artifacts. The thematic analysis revealed that interactions were perceived as self-supporting or self-threatening. Self-supporting behaviors were instrumental, caring, or consensual in form, while self-threatening behaviors resulted in a loss of independence, concerns for self-esteem, or restricted participation. Participant responses to the helping behaviors became more complex with age. Instrumental and caring assistance emerged across all groups as did loss of independence and concerns for self-esteem. The older participants experienced restricted participation and consensual help. The implications of helping behavior on motivation and dependency states are discussed within the framework of threat to self-esteem theory.
The author is with the College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5C2 Canada. E-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.