Van Rooijen, M., Verhoeven, L. & Steenbergen, B. (2016). Working memory and fine motor skills predict early numeracy performance of children with cerebral palsy. Child Neuropsychology,22(6), 735-747. United Kingdom: Routledge. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/09297049.2015.1046426
Early numeracy is an important precursor for arithmetic performance, academic proficiency, and work success. Besides their apparent motor difficulties, children with cerebral palsy (CP) often show additional cognitive disturbances. In this study, we examine whether working memory, non-verbal intelligence, linguistic skills, counting and fine motor skills are positively related to the early numeracy performance of 6-year-old children with CP. A total of 56 children (M = 6.0, SD = 0.61, 37 boys) from Dutch special education schools participated in this cross-sectional study. Of the total group, 81% of the children have the spastic type of CP (33% unilateral and 66% bilateral), 9% have been diagnosed as having diskinetic CP, 8% have been diagnosed as having spastic and diskinetic CP and 2% have been diagnosed as having a combination of diskinetic and atactic CP. The children completed standardized tests assessing early numeracy performance, working memory, non-verbal intelligence, sentence understanding and fine motor skills. In addition, an experimental task was administered to examine their basic counting performance. Structural equation modeling showed that working memory and fine motor skills were significantly related to the early numeracy performance of the children (β = .79 and p < .001, β = .41 and p < .001, respectively). Furthermore, counting was a mediating variable between working memory and early numeracy (β = .57, p < .001). Together, these findings highlight the importance of working memory for early numeracy performance in children with CP and they warrant further research into the efficacy of intervention programs aimed at working memory training.
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