It’s always good to have several strategies to motivate a person with an intellectual disability. Today I was reminded of one strategy I have used with a lot of success, and thought I would share the story with you.

What made me think of it, was something I stumbled on while  working on a  book about the Humane Society. As I was researching facts, I ran across a reading program that was interesting. The program connects a student with a dog at the shelter to read to. The kid sits next to the fence and reads, and the dog sits there and listens. It is sooo cute.

It didn’t surprise me that this program was successful, because I have experienced my own version of using our Chihuahua, Petey, to motivate Lily.

When Lily was younger, Petey had to study flashcards with Lily. I would pretend like he was getting them wrong and Lily would tell him what it ‘really’ said. It made studying fun.

I have expanded my use of “Pete the Motivator” over the years as new things come up that Lily is not wild about doing.

A conversation might go like this:

Me: Peter…. don’t be silly! No, you can not comb Lily’s hair. (laugh for dramatic effect) A dog can’t comb someone’s hair! (I laugh and so does Lily)

Then, I pretend Petey is telling me something.

Me: Now Petey, if you want me to show you how to comb someone’s hair, Lily and I can show you how. You have to start at the bottom…..Lily, can you go get a brush? Let’s show Petey. I don’t think he understands how this works.

(Lily runs to get the brush-LOL-can you believe this?)

Lily: Ok!

Me: Now Pete, I need to you pay attention. You need to be very gentle. Watch how I do this. Lily wants her hair to look beautiful at school. She does not want to have a bunch of snarls…. (I laugh) Oh my Petey! He says he likes snarls! (we laugh) Petey, No, snarls are not good. We want to comb them out so that Lily’s hair is smooth.

Me: No Petey, she is not done yet. There is still another snarl. Petey, you need to be patient.

You get the idea. I talk to the dog and pretend he is talking back to me. I pretend we are teaching him something and Lily loves it.

Stephanie doesn’t have a dog, but her mother does. Stephanie’s son, Austin, will eat blackberries if Stephanie gets on the phone with her mother in NY and tells her to get the dog, that Austin is eating blackberries. Austin’s grandma encourages him by saying how proud the dog is, etc.

Here’s how this can be used at school:

Simply substitute the dog for a student who is admired. Perhaps a favorite classmate at the school. Modify the conversation to saying things like, “Oh my….John is not going to believe that you finished this whole assignment! I can’t wait to show it to him” etc.

Yes, we want students to be intrinsically motivated to do this stuff without a bunch of hoopla, but frankly, this strategy can make doing something undesirable more fun. Why not?