Oral Communication

Procedural learning in development and in Developmental Coordination Disorder

Dr Caroline LEJEUNEa

a Université de Liège

A variety of motor skills are acquired progressively during childhood, such as eating with cutlery, tying shoelaces, writing, and riding a bicycle. Through repeated practice, these skills gradually become automated and can be performed without awareness or fatigue. They represent what one calls ‘‘routines’’—that is, procedural skills. There is general agreement that procedural learning capacities are present early in childhood and that they play a critical role in the development of children's cognitive capacities. However, few studies have brought empirical data confirming this assumption, and many questions remain regarding the cognitive mechanisms that sustain procedural learning in children.

First, we present several researches which explore the development of procedural learning during childhood. Our studies focused on two broad categories of tasks: sequence learning (such as serial reaction time) and perceptuomotor adaptation (for example, mirror drawing).

The second purpose of this presentation was to explore the possibility of a procedural learning deficit among children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). This developmental condition, which affects 6% of primary school children, is characterized by poor motor skills in the absence of neurological or intellectual dysfunction. However, despite the fact that children with DCD experience difficulties learning motor skills in everyday life, to date, and quite surprisingly, motor procedural learning in developmental coordination disorder has received very little attention.