Motor Learning Approach

What does it take to learn to perform a task?  How do we learn to perform a task better once we learn the basics?  Whether it is playing tennis, walking, or driving a car we use motor learning every day.  Therapy uses the principle of motor learning to teach clients how to perform new skills and how to take the skills they already possess to the next level.

What is motor learning?

Motor learning is the initiation and execution of movement.  Whenever you take an idea about movement (ideation) and turn it into action, you are utilizing motor control.  Motor learning results when there is a change in the capability of a person to perform a skill.  Whenever you change the way you perform a movement, motor learning has occurred.  Motor learning is the direct result of both practice and experience.

What is the goal of the motor learning approach?

The goal of the motor learning approach is learning, not performance.  Performance is the momentary strength of a the response.  It is the ability to complete a specific task right after the task has been practiced, but the inability to perform the task the next day because learning has not occurred.  On the other hand, learning is the underlying habitual strength of the response (it becomes more automatic).  It is the ability to use the knowledge while practicing a specific skill to complete a new task.

What are the principles of motor learning?

Motor learning stresses that variable practice is fundamental to the development of new skills.  Variable practice is “repetition without repetition”.  It is repeatedly performing a task while some part of the task is changing.  The participant is required to modify their skill with each repetition to meet the demands of the changing task.

Motor learning involves the learner in goal setting.  Tasks are easier to remember if it is desirable, relevant, important, and motivating to the learner.  Allowing the learner to assist in setting up the task so that it is meaningful to them promotes long-term memory of the skills learned while practicing the task.

Motor learning also encourages active problem solving.  Allowing a learner to think through a task and make mistakes will provide them with the knowledge needed to complete not only the task before them, but other similar tasks in a variety of situations.  Errors are a part of the learning process.  The knowledge gained by making a mistake is used to improve task completion.

The motor learning approach allows for the modification of the information presented.  For example, the amount of information presented to children with attention deficits is limited to allow the learner to focus on one key element of the task at a time to optimize learning.  This includes breaking down a task into smaller portions and simplifying the practice environment to reduce distractions.

Motor learning uses many different types of practice.  The learner may begin by practicing a piece of a complex task and then practice the task as a whole.  The learner may use mental practice (going through the steps of the task in their head) and verbal practice (speaking the necessary steps) to help them recognize the components and the requirements of the task.

Motor learning also provides the learner with feedback to assist the learner in recognizing their own internal feedback (what their body is telling them) so that the learner can identify what “feels right.”

Different aspects of the motor learning approach are incorporated into treatment techniques utilized by The Therapy Village’s therapists.  These principles are used so that your child’s capabilities may be optimized during the treatment session not just for performance, but for actual motor learning to occur

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