The role of oral and manual fine motor skills in predicting language and reading performance among dual language learners

The role of oral and manual fine motor skills in predicting language and reading performance among dual language learners

First Author: Ashley Adams -- University of California, Irvine
Additional authors/chairs: 
Maria Adelaida Restrepo; Beate Peter; Erin Walker; Arthur Glenberg
Keywords: Motor Movements, Reading comprehension, Intervention, Bilingualism, Language
Abstract / Summary: 

The purpose of this study was to determine the significance and directions of the relationships among oral and manual fine motor variables and language and reading abilities among Spanish-English dual language learners (DLLs).

Participants included 56 DLLs, recruited based on teacher concern for language and/or reading comprehension abilities. Students participated in a battery of baseline tests to determine motor, language, reading, and cognitive abilities. Students then participated in 15 intervention sessions, reading 8 multi-chapter stories in the EMBRACE program, a reading comprehension intervention based on the principles of embodied cognition. Correlations among all variables were examined for directions of relationships. Regression equations explored the predictive power of motor variables with Spanish and English language ability as the outcome measure. Finally a hierarchical linear model explored the role of fine motor abilities in predicting performance during the intervention.

Oral fine motor abilities (productions of /pa/ and /pata/) predicted Spanish (but not English) oral language abilities in the expected direction (i.e. faster motor performance was associated with higher language scores). Only the speed of /pata/ productions predicted reading comprehension performance on the intervention, but not in the expected direction (i.e. slower speeds were associated with better performance on comprehension questions). Manual fine motor performance on computer tapping tasks was not related to language or reading.

Oral fine motor abilities are related to language abilities in DLLs, but only for the native language. Slower oral fine motor performance predicted higher accuracy on intervention reading comprehension questions, suggesting that the EMBRACE intervention may be particularly effective for improving comprehension for children with weak fine motor skills.