Question: What has an obscure 80’s pop song and Sesame Street got to do with ADHD and dyslexia?
I’m currently digging around on Google Scholar for information on hand clapping. Why? because connections between dyslexia and poor rhythm have been found and the Interactive Metronome has generated some interesting research on rhythm and academic achievement. The role of coordination is also well documented. So as clapping is a simple activity that involves coordination and rhythm it should could provide an interesting insight into neurological development and learning disorders.
As a starting point I wanted to look at when and how children without learning problems develop their clapping skills? Work from 1996 (Dynamical Patterns in the Development of Clapping) found that it developed been the ages of 3 and 7. When combined with another task, i.e. walking, children had reached an adult level skill by the age of eight. However in the harder task of clapping and running, ten years did not reach an adult level of skill (see How do children coordinate simultaneous upper and lower extremity tasks? The development of dual motor task coordination). It seems that pure rhythmic ability developers earlier than this. Looking at the ability to simply tap along with a rhythm the study, Spontaneous motor tempo and rhythmical synchronisation in 2½- and 4-year-old children , found that “regular spontaneous manual tapping tempo could be observed in children as young as 2½ years”.
These studies suggest that basic rhythmic ability starts at about 2 1/2 years old with clapping skills developing from three upwards. By the age of seven most children can clap in time and by ten they can combine it with other tasks. Having established a base line, the next step is to look for research on the clapping abilities of children with learning problems. I will be writing about this subject in the next few days.