Learning Difficulties   


Some children born premature or sick at birth, may experience cognitive and learning difficulties when they start school or later through their schooling years as level of difficulty increases.   As parents or primary caregivers we encourage you to share your child’s medical history and birth experience with your school.  Working on this together and identifying any needs can help your teenager get the right help earlier which can make a huge difference to their development and school years.  

Most learning challenges in Australia would have been diagnosed during primary school, however it is possible for teenagers to experience learning challenges they may not have experienced during primary school.  It is important to stay in touch with your teenager’s school needs, challenges and achievements.  High school can be a difficult time for teenagers as so many new experiences and changes occur in their life during this time.  It may be difficult for your teenager to share their learning challenges with you and they may be embarrassed with you, their peers and teachers to seek help.  Providing a respectful and safe place for your teenager to share this with you can help and working together to find the best support for their needs.



Taken straight from the research conclusion:

“Children who are born preterm are more likely than children born at term to have deficits in both decoding and reading comprehension. The results of this meta-analysis add to the growing body of literature providing evidence that preterm children continue to exhibit deficits at school age across a wide range of academic and cognitive domains, even with substantial advancements in neonatal care.8,12,53 There are several important implications of these findings. Early identification of children with poor reading attainment, and early intervention implementation, has been shown to greatly improve reading outcomes in school-aged children”


Some teenagers may have new or existing learning challenges when they reach high school, such as:

  • Cognitive Delay
  • Reading & Comprehension
  • Mathematical Decoding
  • Short Term Memory


Most high schools will aim to provide ongoing support for any student leaving primary school that already has a learning support plan in place. A benefit is to meet with the school and provide the information around the supports that your teenager will need. Some challenges may be less or no longer apparent due to hard work and support during the primary school years, however it is good that your teenager’s new school is aware of any past challenges so they can be aware if any extra help is needed during high school.  High school requires your teenager to be much more independent and in control of their time management, scheduling and reporting.These could be new skills your teenager has to learn, communication is paramount with your teenager and to continue to offer your support and encouragement.

Please remember that you are not alone if your teenager is struggling in school. Some children born premature or sick at birth have had a more challenging start to life and will sometimes need more support. 

By understanding where your teenager has difficulty, the school, your GP, Paediatrician, Educational Psychologist or school will be able to direct you for any possible assessments or extra support.   

You are the best advocate for your teenager and working together you can improve their learning and school experience. 

A good blog to read from another Mum: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-thinking-differences/getting-started/what-you-need-to-know/is-premature-birth-linked-to-learning-and-thinking-differences

Some learning difficulties may require external support and help outside of the school environment.  These may not be directly linked to being born premature or sick at birth but will be helpful for parents to be aware of other challenges that might need more direct treatment and support.  

Need support? NurtureConnect allows you to connect with our NurtureProgram support team, or call our 24 hour NurtureLine 1300 622 243 or join our Facebook community.


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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances.To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].