SpeechPathology.com Phone: 800-242-5183

AMN Healthcare

What Are the Principles of Motor Learning and Why Are They Important?

Carol Koch, EdD, CCC-SLP, ASHA Fellow, BCS-CL

May 15, 2023



What are the principles of motor learning and why are they important?



The traditional or motor-based approaches utilized to treat speech sound disorders specifically focus on the motor aspects of sound production. The traditional approach emphasizes teaching the placement of the articulators and the motor movement patterns needed for speech sound production. Therefore, speech sound production is a motor-based skill.

Motor learning is a “set of processes associated with practice or experience leading to relatively permanent changes in the capability for movement” (Schmidt & Lee, 2005, p. 302). A learned motor skill results from two different levels of performance that are demonstrated during the acquisition and learning phase and the retention and transfer phase. During the acquisition and learning phase, motor performance is demonstrated through the establishment of the ability to execute a specific motor skill. This perspective emphasizes that acquisition is the product of practice. Retention and transfer reflect the level of learning that is considered the permanent change in the ability to demonstrate the skilled movements as measured by retention of the skill after the training and practice have been completed. The level of performance during the practice phase of motor learning does not predict retention and transfer of the skill (Maas et al., 2008).

Motor-based approaches have a long history in the treatment of speech sound disorders, yet the research is limited regarding the principles of motor learning and speech-motor learning. Maas and colleagues (2008) have examined the application of the basic principles with intact motor systems. This research can be applied to traditional motor-based interventions with children who demonstrate speech sound disorders.

Maas and colleagues (2008) have emphasized three areas of study in motor learning principles in which evidence supports the application to the intervention of speech sound disorders in children. The three areas are pertinent to the conditions of practice and include prepractice, principles of practice, and principles of feedback. It is important to utilize this structure in the implementation of motor-based articulation intervention.

Further, the principles of motor learning are applied differently depending on where the child’s articulation skills are along a continuum of motor skills development from acquisition to retention. Application of the principles of motor learning to speech production offers promising insight into optimizing treatment (Maas et al., 2014).

This ATE is an excerpt from the course, 20Q: Principles of Motor Learning and Intervention for Speech Sound Disorders, authored by Carol Koch, EdD, CCC-SLP, ASHA Fellow, BCS-CL.

carol koch

Carol Koch, EdD, CCC-SLP, ASHA Fellow, BCS-CL

Carol Koch, EdD, CCC-SLP, is a Professor at Samford University. Much of her clinical work has been in early intervention, with a focus on children with autism spectrum disorder and children with severe speech sound disorders, including childhood apraxia of speech.  Her research and teaching interests have also encompassed early phonological development, speech sound disorders, and CAS.  She has been honored as an ASHA Fellow and is a Board Certified Specialist in Child Language. Recently, Dr. Koch published a textbook, Clinical Management of Speech Sound Disorders:  A Case-Based Approach. She is also a co-author of the Contrast Cues for Speech and Literacy and the “Box of” set of cues for articulation therapy and the Box of /ɹ/ Facilitating Contexts and Screener through Bjorem Speech Publications.

Related Courses

20Q: Speech Sound Disorders: "Old" and "New" Tools
Presented by Carol Koch, EdD, CCC-SLP


Carol Koch, EdD, CCC-SLP
Course: #8775Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'New ideas to use in therapy and a better understanding of minimal oppositions vs'   Read Reviews
This course is designed to provide an exploration into current topics in the clinical management of speech sound disorders. Considerations for target selection and intervention strategies are discussed.

20Q: Principles of Motor Learning and Intervention for Speech Sound Disorders
Presented by Carol Koch, EdD, CCC-SLP, ASHA Fellow, BCS-CL


Carol Koch, EdD, CCC-SLP, ASHA Fellow, BCS-CL
Course: #10573Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'The table at the end summarizing everything was helpful'   Read Reviews
An overview of motor learning principles relevant to speech sound disorders, including principles related to structuring practice conditions and feedback, is provided in this course. Evidence from the literature is presented, and specific ways to incorporate these principles into both acquisition and retention phases of intervention are described.

20Q: Current Topics in Supervision
Presented by Carol Koch, EdD, CCC-SLP


Carol Koch, EdD, CCC-SLP
Course: #9928Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'Loved the additional resources for supervision'   Read Reviews
This course provides an exploration into current topics regarding clinical supervision, including professional development requirements for clinical supervisors, key competencies, and strategies for effective supervision.

20Q: Dynamics of School-Based Speech and Language Therapy Variables
Presented by Kelly Farquharson, PhD, CCC-SLP, Anne Reed, MS, CCC-SLP


Kelly Farquharson, PhD, CCC-SLPAnne Reed, MS, CCC-SLP
Course: #10002Level: Advanced1 Hour
  'The comparative studies were enlightening'   Read Reviews
This course reviews dynamics of speech and language therapy variables such as session frequency, intervention intensity, and dosage, and how these are impacted by different service delivery models. It discusses how therapy outcomes are related to therapy quality, IEP goals, and SLP-level variables such as job satisfaction and caseload size.

20Q: A Continuum Approach for Sorting Out Processing Disorders
Presented by Gail J. Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP


Gail J. Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP
Course: #10008Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'I find auditory processing disorders confusing'   Read Reviews
There is a good deal of confusion among audiologists and speech-language pathologists when a diagnosis of “processing disorder” is introduced. This course presents a continuum model to differentiate processing disorders into acoustic, phonemic, or linguistic aspects so that assessment and treatment can become more focused and effective. The roles of audiologists and SLPs in relation to processing disorders are described, and compensatory strategies for differing aspects of processing are presented.

Our site uses cookies to improve your experience. By using our site, you agree to our Privacy Policy.