Benefits of captions

1 in 3 students in every classroom will benefit from captions

Benefits of Captions infographic

The use of captions in the classroom [link is external] provides essential access to the curriculum [link is external]. Research has highlighted the link between the use of captions and improved literacy benefits for students [link is external].

Access to media and technology [link is external] in schools is a necessity for all students, to ensure that they can learn and interact with the curriculum, and to assist in the meeting of age appropriate learning outcomes.

Captions are generally used by people who are Deaf or hard of hearing but they have educational benefits for all students, in particular those who speak English as a second language, have learning disabilities such as dyslexia, attention challenges, sit on the autism spectrum, or any student struggling to read or spell.

  • Essential for the 12,000 students who are Deaf or hearing impaired even those with hearing devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. Listening can be difficult over long periods and students may be embarrassed to ask for captions.
  • 600,000 students with English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D), captions improve listening and reading comprehension, vocabulary and word recognition. Chai and Erlam (2008) found students were able to learn new words and phrases more effectively when viewing videos with captions [and] helped students learn colloquial language and how it is used. Markham’s study (2001) showed captions improve comprehension for language students.
  • Students with learning disabilities including ADHD and sensory integration and autism disorders benefit from captions providing an alternative way to understand and reinforce the information. Garman (2011) found captions provide a “backup” for students who have auditory processing difficulties associated with these conditions.
  • Increasing the number of cognitive pathways through multiple modalities of captioned media helps improve understanding and recall of information ie increased learning for students with dyslexia, ADHD and those on the autism spectrum. 
  • Captions improve focus and engagement for students with ADHD and sensory integration issues as multiple sensory inputs leave less opportunity for distraction and disengagement.
  • Benefits for struggling readers by linking text to spoken words, captions can boost literacy, reading speed and vocabulary for struggling readers. Linebarger (2001) found captions helped beginning readers recognise more words. Combining captions and sound also helped children focus on central story elements and improve concentration. The University of Canterbury (2013) that found that turning on captions not only significantly improved literacy levels, particularly amongst Maori and Pacific Islander students, but also reduced students’ truancy through improved engagement.

Benefits of captions

  • Learn words and phrases more effectively
  • Improve listening, comprehension, vocabulary, word recognition
  • Helps learn colloquial language
  • Alternative way to understand and reinforce information
  • Back up for auditory processing difficulties
  • Improves focus and engagement


Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009). The National Year of Reading: Libraries helping to make Australia a nation of readers [link is external].

Chai, J. and Erlam, R. (2008). The effect and the influence of the use of video and captions on second language learning, New Zealand Studies in Applied Linguistics, pp 14, 25–44.

Cresswell, J. (2004). Immigrant Status and Home Language Background: Implications for Australian Student Performance in PISA 2000 [link is external], Acer Research Monographs.

Hyde, M and Power, D (2004). Inclusion of Deaf students: An examination of definitions of inclusion in relation to findings of a recent Australian study of Deaf students in regular classes, Deafness and Education International, 6, No 2, pp 82-99.

Garman, J. (2011). Autistic spectrum, captions and audio description [link is external], Mindful Research.

Linebarger, D. (2001). Learning to Read from Television: The Effects of Using Captions and Narration, Journal of Educational Psychology, 93, No 2, pp 288-98.

Markham, P. (2001). The Effects of Native Language vs. Target Language Captions on Foreign Language Students’ DVD Video Comprehension, Foreign Language Annals, 34, No 5, pp 439-45.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (2011). Trial of a model for collecting nationally consistent data on school students with disability: final report. Prepared for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.

Royal Institute of Deaf and Blind Children (2012). Fact List [link is external].

University of Canterbury (2013). Popular movies help children improve literacy [link is external].