Principles of motor learning and why they are important
Speech is the most complicated motor activity we do. It requires rapid and highly coordinated movements of many muscle groups. CAS results from difficulty planning and programming these motor movements for speech. Research has uncovered important knowledge about how humans learn motor skills, and this knowledge is referred to as “Principles of Motor Learning” or PML. Treatment for CAS that follows these principles is carefully structured to help the child achieve the most rapid and enduring response to treatment possible, which is particularly important for children with moderate to severe CAS. There many ways therapy can incorporate PML, including:
The difference between learning and performance
Too often children with CAS demonstrate slow progress. One explanation for this is that therapy is sometimes structured to promote success during practice in the therapy session (performance) but may not consider factors that enhance the retention and transfer of skills (learning). Motor learning research demonstrates that performance during practice is a poor indicator of learning. So, children can do well during therapy sessions, but then have difficulty transferring the skills outside of therapy. Treatment methods that follow principles of motor learning are designed to promote learning so the child will be able to generalize and maintain skills.
Why progress is important
When a child has CAS, especially moderate or severe CAS, speaking is difficult and therapy is hard work. It is important for the child experience some “pay-off” for that work in the form of more successful communication. Choosing speech targets that are meaningful and useful to the child and structuring the therapy session to help the child learn those words as quickly as possible helps keep the child actively engaged in therapy and discourages negative avoidance behavior.