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Primary School

What should I look out for in my child’s first few years of school?

Children aged between the ages of 5 – 8 years are learning how to be at school, how to follow classroom and playground rules, how to learn and how to follow instructions.

Starting school is a very big step for all children. Our transition to school page has additional specific information on this important step.

What help is available in the primary years for children with disability?

As they progress through the primary years, your child will be socialising more at school, in the community and with family and friends. They may be starting to develop their own interests and passions.

There are many services available to help a child living with a disability to be supported within their school, home or community. Discuss local services with your general practitioner and school. Information can also be obtained from local councils.

What if I think my child may have a delay in development or be having problems at school?

Parents or caregivers are often the first to notice that their child's development is delayed or that their child is having problems at school.

Children with learning difficulties experience difficulties with learning in one or more areas of the curriculum. These difficulties may vary in cause, nature, intensity and duration.

You may already be aware that your child has special learning needs – be that learning difficulties, a behaviour disorder and/or a disability.

If you are concerned about your child’s progress and development, you can consult your child’s school or your GP. The resources below may also help. (Source: NSW Schools)

What are some of the signs my child may need more help?

Early Primary Years

  • Speaking- mispronunciations, slow word finding, grammatical errors persist
  • Phonological awareness- cannot appreciate the individual sounds in words heard, spoken, or read
  • Reading and Spelling- difficulty learning to sound-out words for reading and spelling. Relies on sight words, reading is slow and effortful and common errors include adding or omitting sounds in words
  • Sequencing- errors when reading -says "was" for saw or "steam" for stream, telling an event in order
  • Auditory memory- difficulty holding multi-step directions
  • Handwriting- awkward pencil grip, presses hard on the paper
  • Focus- trouble concentrating/ wears out before a task is done
  • Self esteem- begins to experience failure and frustration

Later primary years

Speaking - mispronunciations and slow word finding, e.g. says "flustrated" instead of frustrated or "pacific" instead of specific.

Auditory memory - difficulty remembering multiple-step directions; difficulty remembering alphabet in head, difficulty with using a dictionary; easily forgets telephone numbers.

Reading - slow, avoids it; relies on sight words; guesses words from story content.

Spelling - forgets spelling words after spelling tests, many errors when spelling words, commonly leaves out or adds letters to words.

Writing - avoids writing; only write when he/she has to, sentences are short; avoids school work that would require more writing

Handwriting - very messy letter formation, awkward pencil grip.

Language expression - difficulty putting thoughts/ideas into words; can be hard to understand because their story's sequence is not logical or not easy to follow.

Focus - trouble concentrating; wears out before the task is done.

Achievement tests - discrepancy between performance in math vs. reading, very poor spelling performance, verbal language skills are much better than performance on written achievement tests.

Self esteem - increasing frustration and poor self-esteem, commonly hides reading or spelling difficulties from others, self-described as a "black cloud" hanging over their head that they don't want others to know about.

Speak to your general practitioner or school should you have any concerns so you can access the next steps.

Links and resources – Early primary years

Child Care Access Hotline 1800 670 305

Raising Children Network (5-8 year specific) -

Parentline 1300 30 1300 Parentline offer a number of sources of information for parenting issues and concerns relating to primary school aged children -

Playgroup Association of NSW 1800 242 636 -

Association for Children with a Disability NSW -

Early Childhood Intervention Australia (NSW) -

For school age children (5-8) -

Good Beginnings National Parenting Program -

Parenting NSW -

Parenting South Australia -

Fathers Direct -

Kids Matter offer a range of fact sheets -


Founders Network Canada -

National Parent Information Network (US) -

Links and Resources – Later primary years

The Australian Institute of Family Studies has a number of research papers on children with disabilities in the 8-12 years area -

Raising Children Network Learning Disabilities in Adolescences -

Association for Children with a Disability offer a Transition to Secondary School booklet -

Aussie Deaf Kids – parent friendly information from birth to post school -

Kids Matter – Mental health and wellbeing for children -

Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 -

Family Relationship Advice Line -  1800 050 321 from 8 am to 8 pm, Monday to Friday, and 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday, except national public holidays

Livewire (A community for young people with chronic illnesses) -

Young Carers Assists your carers with support -


Cypersafety internet program -

Hector's World Keeping kids safe on line -