I know this is not a new idea.
In 2011, researchers found that Australian children from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to attend special education classes than those from wealthier backgrounds, even though they are more than twice as likely as the other two groups to receive free or reduced-price preschool and a third more likely than the other groups to have their first class experience with a digital device.
That same year, researchers from the University of Sydney also discovered that children from low-income families were significantly more likely not to attend their first school experience than their more affluent counterparts.
But the new study, published in the journal Science Advances, suggests that the gap between the educational outcomes of poorer children and those of wealthier children is much wider than previously thought.
The study, which involved more than a dozen schools across the country, focused on four types of children: the children of low- or moderate-income parents, children with special needs, children who are low-functioning and children with developmental disabilities.
In a separate study, a team of researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health looked at children from families with more than one child from disadvantaged background, finding that those with special learning needs were more likely (though not by much) to drop out of high school and attend special classes.
These findings suggest that children with disabilities are not just a minority but also a class, says lead author Sarah Kelleher, a professor of social work at the Mailman College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.
They’re a unique group in terms of being the only group in the United States where the children with disability are more disadvantaged than the children in the general population.
And that’s really important for understanding the social and economic impacts of learning disabilities, because if you don’t understand that the disability is not just limited to the child with the disability, you may not think it’s a serious problem, Kelleer says.
Children from disadvantaged families are also more likely be exposed to video games, Keltner says, which could potentially have long-term effects on learning and development.
And while there is little evidence that children of poor families are more vulnerable to video game play, this study shows that children who play video games are more apt to dropout, she says.
What’s more, children from lower-income households were more than four times as likely to have a video game experience in their first year of life, while children from more affluent families were more apt than those in low- and middle-income backgrounds to experience video game-related problems in their second year.
“It suggests that these experiences of video games may affect their ability to learn to read and write in ways that are potentially harmful to their future educational outcomes,” Kelleers says.
“And that’s something that parents should be thinking about, as well.”