Children with special needs learn better when read and sung to, says new study

This article appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of Erikson on Children under the headline “Valuing reading and singing.” More from this issue »

A new study by Professor Pamela Epley quantifies the value of typical home activities, such as reading and singing, for children with special needs.

Image: Professor Pamela Epley

Professor Pamela Epley

To be exact, when parents of children under school age increased the frequency of these activities by approximately one-third, their children scored 8%–9% higher on later reading and math assessments.

However, caring for a child with special needs can often leave parents with little time or energy for reading, singing, or other activities that promote learning.

Epley finds important implications for early intervention practitioners and other professionals who support children with special needs and their families. The study suggests that practitioners should affirm the value of parents’ interactions with their children and help the family receive needed support services — from counseling to connecting them to a local children’s playgroup — even if the services seem to be unrelated to the child. If parents’ needs are met, they may be able to engage more with their children.

The study is based on an analysis of The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study–Birth cohort. The study sample was comprised of approximately 200 children with special needs.