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Keeping Motivation in Therapy

Although we have rooms packed with fun toys, speech therapy isn't always all fun and games. For some clients, especially ones who have been in therapy for many years, it can be hard work and even aversive. Speech therapy can be difficult for a client for a variety of reasons. Clients are usually required to sit at tabletop, where demands are placed. And although, we try to keep it as natural as possible, some clients just need a more structured learning environment.

Like most things in our life, motivation can have a significant impact on our willingness to complete a task. Speech therapists need to not only look at their goals, but also consider what variables may impact a child's motivation and attention during activities.

High Interest Motivators

In order to keep your clients engaged in a task, or even at the table, you need to first know what motivates them, stickers, stamps, and praise are not always good enough. This varies drastically between clients. For some clients, it can be as simple as playing their preferred toys, such as cars, fruit cutting, or cars. For other clients who are not motivated by play it is much tougher to find a strong motivator. You might need a parent’s influence and opinion on this issue, but make sure to ask for it. Some clients may be motivated by earning a reward.


Rewards can be very motivating keep clients working through an activity. You can let the client know how much longer they need to work in order to get their reward (5 more tokens, 6 more pieces, 2 more minutes) At the end, give them a structured amount of time with the reward. Rewards need to be short, usually lasting 1 minute, or till the end of a game. It might be best offer them choices before they work, making sure you have the most powerful reward. A reward can be most anything. Some ideas include:

  • Music (play song, a part of a song, or sing it)

  • Videos (watch a clip, make your own)

  • I-Pad games

  • Sensory toys

  • Gross motor activities (bouncing on a ball, trampoline, swing)

Motivation is a key part of any therapy session, finding a strong motivator either preferred toys or a reward can make all the difference in your sessions!

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