Of the Australian children who start their first year of formal full-time school each year, the majority start with their development on track and ready to take advantage of everything that school has to offer. About four per cent of children will start school with a significant developmental delay or disability that has been clearly identified; these children are likely to receive some assistance, such as a classroom aide, to help them participate to the fullest at school.
However, Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) data have shown that there is up to 20 per cent of children who start at school with some level of special healthcare need that may not yet have been formally identified, and for which they may not receive any formal special assistance at school.
The 2013 ‘Acting Early, Changing Lives’ report from the Benevolent Society highlighted that many children are at risk of being left behind. The authors noted 'Evidence indicates worsening or unacceptably high levels of problems amongst Australia’s children and young people' (Moore & McDonald, 2013).
By the time children reach school, many are already showing developmental vulnerabilities, often without any formal supports to help them to catch up. Efforts to identify these children and support their healthy development before they start school will make a big difference in the long run.
Australian paediatricians report that referrals for atopic dermatitis, or eczema, are number three of the top ten conditions that they see (Hiscock et al, 2011); in fact, Australian children have one of the highest incidences of eczema in the world (Eczema Association, 2012). Childhood eczema affects the quality of life not only of the sufferer, but also their caregiver/s and family, with flare-ups having a profound impact on social, personal and emotional outlooks (Su et al, 1997), and placing a significant strain on family relationships (Eczema Association, 2013).