Master of Education researcher Chrystal Whiteford analysed data from Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children for her study, which was the first of its kind in Australia.
Ms Whiteford said children with special health care needs, such as chronic physical, developmental, behavioural or emotional conditions, and who required health and other services beyond those usually required by children, were at risk of a range of negative developmental outcomes.
“Children aged four to five years with special health care needs performed lower in social and learning competencies prior to school,” Ms Whiteford, from QUT’s Centre for Learning Innovation, said.
“And my research also indicated that having special health care needs prior to school may impact upon children’s social and learning competencies at six and seven years of age.
“This can place children at risk.”
Ms Whiteford said previous research indicated lower social competencies could result in withdrawal from social situations and cause problems in peer relationships, leading to poor work skills, lower academic performance, learning difficulties and problems with future social adjustment.
She said other research had also shown lower learning competencies may cause children to leave school prematurely, leading to lower income and welfare dependence, and poorer mental health outcomes.
Ms Whiteford said while there were currently no programs in place to identify and help children with special health care needs, her research could be used to inform such a project.
“My research uncovered a number of characteristics which can be used to identify children in need of support or intervention,” she said.
“Children with special health care needs are likely to be male, of low birth weight and poorer general health, likely to use prescription medications, have a specific health condition and come from families where mothers were less well educated.”
Media contact: Rachael Wilson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1150 or [email protected]
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