Deaf Education Home Page
Instructional Strategies Home Page

Generating Motivation

Key Words: Instructional Strategies, Deaf Education, K-12

Type: Intervention Strategies

Topic: Generating Motivation

Focus: Severely Communicatively Impaired


"A lack of motivation for (interest in) communication can arise from any of the following sources, singly or in combination:

"How one would deal with a motivation problem would, of course, depend on its source. Several strategies are outlined in this section that may be helpful." (p. 209) "A child or adult who was not expected to make decisions probably would have little motivation to communicate. If a person has a difficult time communicating, it tends to take less time for the family or the staff at the institution to anticipate his or her needs rather than wait for them to be communicated. Anticipating needs rather than waiting for them to be communicated is particularly likely to occur in hospitals, nursing homes, and institutions for the mentally retarded. Persons in such institutions may, in fact, be discouraged from attempting to communicate because it makes client care more time- consuming for the staff. If a person were to sense that those with whom he interacted responded negatively to his attempts at communication, he or she probably would make fewer attempts to communicate, which would be likely to result in a vicious circle: Reduced attempts to communicate would lead to reduced practice in communicating, which in turn would lead to lack of improvement (or regression) in communication ability, which in turn would lead to discouragement or attempts to communicate, and so on." (p. 209)

"Lack of motivation to communicate resulting from not being encouraged to make decisions can be dealt with, in part, by expecting the person to participate in decision making to the extent allowed by his or her communication ability. If the person is able to understand speech reasonably well and signal yes and no, he or she can be expected to indicate choices by answering questions. By explaining the serious consequences of the person not being encouraged to communicate to those responsible for his or her care, it should be possible to obtain at least their partial cooperation." (p. 209)

"Sometimes a person may not feel a need to improve his or her communication because he or she doesn't have much opportunity to communicate. This is particularly so for persons over the age of 65 who live alone and have limited opportunity for interpersonal relationships. Such persons can be motivated to improve their ability to communicate by increasing their opportunities for interpersonal relationships (e.g., by getting them involved with groups such as "golden age" clubs) or by convincing them that even with their present opportunities for interpersonal relationships it would be advantageous for them to be able to communicate more effectively, or both of these." (p. 209-10)

"One way to increase the opportunities for communication, particularly for persons in residential settings (e.g., institutions for the mentally retarded), is to use peer tutoring (Hooper and Bowler, 1991). Clients who know how to use a particular augmentative strategy or device tutor those who are learning to use it, under the direction of a clinician. This approach provides both tutors and learners with opportunities for communication. Hooper and Bowler (1991) have reported some success using peer tutoring to encourage the use of manual signs by mentally retarded adults outside of the therapy room." (p. 210)

"A third reason why a person (particularly a child) may not be motivated to learn to communicate better is that he or she may be unaware of the benefits from doing so. The person may not be aware that communicating better would give him or her more options and greater control." (p. 210)

"Still another reason is that he or she either does not enjoy communicating or feels that it would be disadvantageous to learn to do it better. Naturally, persons who are depressed or withdrawn do not tend to be highly motivated to communicate. Most, if not all, adults shortly after becoming severely communicatively impaired will evince depression as a part of the grieving process (Clark, 1990; Tanner, 1980). The depression is apt to persist for those who are unable to find something to give their life meaning (Frankl, 1985). Also, persons whose communicative disorders resulted from trauma and who are in the process of suing the parties responsible for injuring them probably will not be highly motivated to learn to communicate better until the litigation process in which they are involved has been completed. The approach used to motivate such persons would, of course, depend on the reason(s) why they do not choose to communicate better." (p. 210-11)

"A person may not be motivated to learn an augmentative strategy because he or she can communicate well enough to meet his or her communication needs. A person's communication needs may be quite limited (and is likely to continue being so in the future), and his or her communication ability, though severely impaired, is adequate for meeting them." (p. 211)

"Finally, a person may resist learning and using augmentative strategy because he or she simply does not like it. One reason could be a lack of compatibility between the available lexicon and his or her communication style (Iacono, 1991, 1992). Another could be a reaction to the strategy itself. One of my adult clients who was capable of communicating by writing on a pad of paper refused to do so in most situations for more than six months because it made him feel uncomfortable. He continued trying to communicate by speaking even though his speech was less then 10 percent intelligible." (p. 211)


Silverman, Franklin, H. (1995). Communication for the Speechless (3rd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Grace Shanafelt/K.S.U. Student/Deaf Ed. Major