Middle Childhood Intervention 6-12:

Six to Eight: Academic Skills

Children between the ages of 6 and 8 years are now in school full time and a lot is expected of them. They are expected to sit still for long periods of time, to take part in individual and group work, and practice a certain amount of autonomy (see full Glossary) (Fig.1). This is a very important time in the lives of children who may not have been identified as having special needs, but who still show delays. The differences between these children and their typically developing peers are now becoming obvious to parents, relatives, teachers and other service providers. It is very important to keep a close watch on these children, and make a referral for a psycho-educational assessment, if it becomes obvious that the child is struggling with school.


Figure 1. In the classroom


Children at this age are reading. They are expected to make sense of what they are reading. If they do not, they may need extra help, either from the regular teacher or the special educator. Some signs of developmental delays may be:

  • child struggles with the alphabet and is unable to say it;
  • child struggles with individual letters and cannot name them all;
  • child uses language that is very simple;
  • child struggles with new words, or the use of old words in new contexts;
  • child struggles with the phonemic segmentation of a word;
  • child struggles with the syllabic segmentation of a word;
  • child struggles with the phonemic blending of sounds;
  • child struggles with the phonemic blending of words ;
  • child struggles with basic alliterations;child may be able to read, but cannot answer simple questions about what he is reading, that is, he or she struggles with reading comprehension;
  • child struggles with basic elements of readings, and is only able to read very simple sentences (between ages seven and eight);
  • child struggles with the recognition of sight words, even simple and familiar ones (for example: dog, cat);
  • child struggles when it comes to decoding new words (see full Glossary);
  • child struggles with basic aspects of figurative speech and does not seem to understand basic idioms (such as: It is raining cats and dogs);
  • child does not seem to understand the difference between a phoneme (for example, the sound “c” in “cat”) and a syllable (for example, the sound “ba” in “baby”);
  • child does not seem able to predict what will happen next in a story;
  • child does not seem to be able to build upon what she has read in a story to create a new story (between ages seven and eight);
  • child cannot seem to know the difference between  nouns (for example, boy) and verbs (for example, go);
  • child cannot seem to be able to identify the main idea in a text or a story.

Did you know?

  • Children 6 to 8  years old are very interested and motivated to read (Fig. 2). If a child is not interested in reading, or resists being read to, she could be struggling with basic elements of reading. It is very important to watch these children carefully in order to determine why they are not interested in reading or being read to.

a boy reading

Figure 2. A boy reading


Most children at this age are writing. In fact, 7 and 8 year olds are writing simple sentences and paragraphs quite well. It is very important to watch for signs of writing difficulties in children, so they can be addressed as early as possible (Fig. 3). Here are some signs of developmental delay:


Figure 3. Writing
  • child continues to hold pens and pencils with their whole fists, as opposed to the tripod position;
  • child writes words that cannot be read by others, because they are not well-written; for example, letter tracing is very irregular and letters and words are stuck to each other;
  • child makes a lot of language mistakes, when writing, and very often erases what he has written, in order to write it again;
  • child takes a long time to write even a simple sentence;
  • child’s drawing skills appear to be immature for his or her age; for example, child’s drawings appear to be those of a much younger child. They do not have as much detail or are simpler than they should be. For more information about the development of drawing skills in children, please visit the two websites.
  • child struggles with the spacing of letters in a word and the spacing of words in a sentence. That is, child may place letters in words too close together, as if they were one word (Iam instead of I am). They may place several words very close together, as if they were one word (thecatchasedthedog, instead of the cat chased the dog) ;
  • child struggles with basic correspondence (such as writing a thank you note or a get well soon card);
  • child struggles with the basic spelling of simple words (such as “boy” and “cat”), and makes a lot of mistakes;
  • child seems to struggle and get frustrated when attempting to copy something from a blackboard;
  • child’s writing contains very little capitalization and punctuation, for example: “mary went home she called her mom” instead of “Mary went home. She called her mom.”


Most children at this age enjoy math. They use it often during the day whether they know it or not (Fig. 4). The math skills that children develop at this age are very important and set the foundation for more complex and abstract math skills. It is extremely important that children master these early math skills, and that they get help as soon as possible if they appear to be struggling with these basic skills.


Figure 4. Math

Here are some signs of developmental delay:

  • child struggles with basic counting, makes a lot of mistakes and does not seem to be able to count to 100 and beyond;
  • child does not seem to be able to count, except when counting from one (that is: child is unable to count up from 10 or 20);
  • child (between 7 and 8) seems to struggles with fractions (for example: half and whole);
  • child seems to struggle with basic addition (that is: adding two single digits: 2 + 3);
  • child is unable to tell which of two or three numbers the biggest or smallest number is;
  • child is unable to tell which number comes after a certain number (for example, which number comes after the number 8);
  • child (between 7 and 8) seems to struggle with basic principles of class inclusion (that is: when asked if there are more blue blocks or blocks, the child answers: there are more blue blocks);
  • child (between 7 and 8) appears to think that adding something to a group will automatically make it bigger than another group, to which nothing was added (for example: one group has 3 puppies and another has 7 puppies. The child seems to think that adding one puppy to the group of 3 would make this group larger than the group of 7, to which nothing was added). For more information, please visit the following website;
  • child does not appear to know that there is a difference between numbers and letters;
  • child seems to struggle with basic sequencing activities (that is: child does not appear to understand what comes first and what comes next in a sequence);
  • child (between 7 and 8) is unable to tell time, even with a digital clock or watch (Fig. 5);
  • child (between 7 and 8) appears to struggle with basic subtraction (for example: 4-2 = 2);
  • child appears to struggle with basic patterns (for example: red, blue, red, blue);
  • child seems to really struggle with simple word problems which he or she does not appear to understand (for example: if I have two candies and you give me two more, how many will I have?);
  • child seems unable to identify complex geometric shapes (for example: an octagon).


Figure 5. Watch

Did you know?

Most children who are afraid of math are so because of the way we talk about it in front of them. We need to watch ourselves when communicating with children and make sure we are not always referring to math as “that difficult subject that everyone hates and struggles with” (Fig. 6).


Figure 6. A girl studying
 see References


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