The Principles of Motor Learning are a set of processes that facilitate the acquisition and retention of motor skills.
Motor Performance - The ability to perform a motor task. How the movement is performed during training, within a structured session. (Temporary change during the speech session).
Motor Learning - Retention and generalization (transfer) of skills learned including how the movement is performed at another time or in another setting outside of speech therapy. The process of the learner acquiring a skill and making a movement automatic.
Precursors to motor learning in young children:
Conditions of Practice
Target Choices/Target Complexity
(Type, length, phonetic complexity)
Practice Amount: Small vs Large
Refers to the amount of time spent practicing movements
*Maximum response trials - Attempt 50-200 trials depending on the severity of the disorder.
*Larger number of trials leads to greater retention and generalization (Edeal & Gildersleeve-Neumann, 2011).
Practice Distribution: Mass vs Distributed practice
*Distributed practice leads to better retention and generalization of a skill (Bahrick & Hall, 2005).
*Typically in children with CAS, distributed practice over time (4 sessions a week for 20 minutes) appears to be more beneficial than massed practice (1x a week for an hour).
*Massed practice may look like working on 3 targets for 4 weeks, and then 3 novel targets for 4 weeks, rather than 6 targets for 8 weeks straight.
Practice Schedule: Blocked vs Random practice
*Evidence shows random practice leads to better motor learning and generalization (Shea et al., 1990), but for more severe cases, blocked practice may be necessary at first to optimize learning.
*If you start with random practice then it will take the child longer time to acquire the accurate movement gesture for that target.
*One study in CAS treatment (~2.5hr tx/week, 2-4 week phases): 2 children showed greater retention with blocked, 1 child showed greater retention with random and 1 child showed no clear improvements with either condition (Maas & Farinella, 2012) .
Practice Variability: Constant vs Variable practice
*Constant practice is better for acquisition of a skill and may be better for learning the underlying timing pattern of a motor program (Lai et al., 2000).
*Variability can also include working on prosody to practice more flexibility in motor planning and programming as well changing stimuli (orthographic vs picture), changing carrier phrases or even changing the setting.
Conditions of Feedback
(Type: Knowledge of Results/Knowledge of Performance, Frequency: High/Low, Timing: Immediate/Delayed)
Feedback Type: Knowledge of Results vs Performance
*To promote generalization and retention of a motor skill, move to knowledge of results feedback.
Feedback Frequency: High vs Low
*More frequent feedback might be required initially for learning of complex skills. Begin with more feedback and gradually fade to less, so a child does not rely on this.
*Children may benefit more from more high frequency feedback overall (Sullivan et al., 2008).
*Few studies have examined feedback frequency in speech motor learning. *One study with children with CAS (Maas, Butalla & Farinella, 2012) showed 2 children with greater retention with low frequency feedback, 1 child with greater retention with high frequency feedback and 1 child with no improvement in either condition. (High frequency feedback meaning feedback given on 100% of trials, low frequency feedback meaning feedback given on 60% of trials).
Feedback Timing: Immediate vs Delayed
References: Maas. et al. (2008). Principles of Motor Learning in Treatment of Motor Speech Disorders. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 17, 277-298.