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VISUAL PERCEPTUAL AND WORKING MEMORY TRAINING TO DEVELOP READING AND SPELLING COMPETENCY AMONGST ELEMENTARY PHASE CHILDREN WITH CEREBRAL PALSY

A. van Staden, A. Tolmie

University of the Free State (SOUTH AFRICA)
Due to their physical disabilities, such as sight, hearing and speech impairments, children with cerebral palsy (CP) frequently experience difficulties with reading and spelling as a result of the incomplete phonological loop in the working memory. Unclear perception of phonemes and graphemes is one of the reasons why children with CP struggle to develop phonological awareness and pre-linguistic skills. Therefore, specific intervention strategies are needed to support this particular learning impairment. This study investigated the possible value of visual-perceptual and cognitive training therapy to support CP children’s pre-linguistic skills development as important prerequisites for reading and spelling development. We utilized a pre-test, post-test experimental research design and sampled thirty six, Sesotho-speaking, elementary phase children (N=36) in South Africa. The visual perceptual intervention strategies inter alia involved visual perceptual and working memory training/therapy, whilst we simultaneously developed these children’s’ visual imagery skills and systematically guided them (scaffolding) to apply these techniques when we introduced reading and spelling words as part of their daily curriculum for a period of six months. Results have shown significant improvement for children in the experimental group (n = 18), compared to children in the control group who were not exposed to these visual perceptual therapy training. These results were significant with regard to both standardised and diagnostic measures administered in the present study (p <0.0001). Finally results from the present study have confirmed the importance of visual perceptual and working memory training in improving the reading and spelling challenges of CP children.