28 October 2018

Almost 700,000 preschoolers in NSW have benefited from free eyesight screenings thanks to a $4 million annual statewide program now celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Associate Professor Elisabeth Murphy, Senior Clinical Advisor, Child and Family Health said the Statewide Eyesight Preschooler Screening (StEPS) program aims to diagnose problems early and prevent permanent vision loss and eye disease.

NSW was the first state or territory in Australia to implement universal screening for four-year-old children at preschools and childcare centres and in 2018/19 the NSW Government is investing more than $4 million in the StEPS program.

“The NSW Government StEPS program is leading the way offering free universal vision screening to children aged four years of age at all NSW preschools and child care centres,” Associate Professor Murphy said.

“Children rarely complain of eye problems and often don’t realise they can’t see properly. The StEPS program tests a child’s vision one eye at a time which is the best way to establish whether they have vision problems.

“StEPS identifies potential vision problems as early as possible so children can receive appropriate diagnosis and treatment. The earlier the vision problem is detected, the better the chances of preventing permanent vision problems.”

Sydney mother Sascha had her daughter Ally screened through the StEPS program at her preschool.

The StEPS screening found that Ally couldn’t see out of her left eye and a visit to an ophthalmologist diagnosed her with Anisometropia and she was fitted with glasses.

“She was a totally different person, her confidence and self-esteem picked up, she was more social and made more friends and she was comfortable in herself knowing she could get around in the world and see,” Sascha said.

Ally is now six and because the vision problem was found and treated early, her left eye has been retrained to almost the same strength as her right eye.

“I highly recommend StEPS to everyone. And it’s free. To be honest, the program changed Ally’s life.”

For more information visit StEPS program.