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That's Motivation

by Raymond Dickinson. Reprinted from DIALOGUE, Spring 1970

An interesting word commonly used in the helping professions, such as psychology, rehabilitation, and social work, and often in medicine, is "motivation." It simply means the process of providing or trying to provide the handicapped person with a desire to be rehabilitated. This is usually done by the teacher or counselor but can be done by the individual himself.

Some years ago, a home teacher had a middle-aged student, Mrs. O'Malley, who had lost her sight a year before. She was born in Ireland and spoke with an Irish brogue. She indicated she liked to read and so took a course in Braille.

The process was slow: She didn't work hard. However, she did learn the characters and could read slowly but without enthusiasm. The teacher had the library send her a collection of stories, hoping this would speed her up. A few weeks later, the teacher visited Mrs. O'Malley and found she had read only a few pages. Puzzled and frustrated, the teacher began to think the lady wasn't very concerned about reading. When he next visited the library, he looked among books that might interest her in particular. He picked out a history of Ireland which looked readable and had it sent to her.

He was afraid to visit her soon, feeling she might berate him for sending her such a book or might give the whole venture up. After waiting three weeks, he saw her and discovered, to his amazement, she had read both volumes of the book twice. Hooray for the Irish! Motivation had worked. Now, Mrs. O'Malley could have done this for herself, but she didn't know what was in the library.

Art Schaffer was a blind college student in his twenties. Everywhere he went he had a sighted guide. He was urged to learn cane travel, but resisted. He didn't need mobility training, he said, and no effort on anybody's part could change his mind.

One day, as he was leaving a class in philosophy, a young lady came up to him. "Mr. Schaffer," she said, "I'm Irene Goldsmith and I've got a problem I think you can help me solve."

Art was unaccustomed to being asked about other people's problems, but inquired noncommittally, "What problem can I help with? I've got enough of my own."

"Oh, it's not really that hard," the young lady said. "I've got a minor eye condition. The doctor put some medicine in my eyes and I can't read 'til the treatment is over. May I sit in on your reading periods for this class?" Art agreed to her request.

For three weeks the same reader read to both Art and Irene, and she often walked home with him after reading periods. As might be expected, some mutual interest developed between them. One Wednesday, Art, on an emotional impulse, asked her for a Saturday night date. She accepted. When he arrived home, he realized a problem. They hadn't talked about how they were to get together. He couldn't ask her to pick him up and then go home with him afterwards. He just had to find a way to call for her, get her home, and then go home himself. He didn't have enough money for all this by taxi.

He wished he had taken mobility training, but it was too late, now. He called two friends, Jack and Henry, and told them his problem. It amused them. "There is only one answer," said Jack, and Henry continued, "You'll just have to get there and back alone." They agreed to see him next evening and help him decide what to do.

For two nights, they put Art through travel training. Their methods were not according to modern mobility techniques, but after concentrated instruction, Art called Irene, went on the date, had a good time, and got home safely. He said later the love affair didn't end in marriage, but Irene rendered him a significant service. She had motivated him to learn independent travel. It was the hard way, but motivation was initiated.

I haven't heard whether Art actually took strict mobility training later, but he is still going where he wants to alone. One doesn't have to wait for an emergency to get what he needs to fulfill his greatest wishes. One must think out desires in relation to skills needed and then learn them. That's motivation.

Some DIALOGUE readers are past the stage of love affairs, being safely married, and most weren't born in Ireland, but the process of thinking wants through and establishing motivation is still possible.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Raymond Dickinson was Associate Editor of DIALOGUE during its first ten years of operation.


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