Children with vision loss succeeding at school

06/06/13
Lucas is one of the many students with vision loss that RIDBC supports

RIDBC Renwick Centre recently hosted the Annual Paediatric Vision Forum which is the only program of its kind in Australia where professionals are able to exchange information and hear about the latest developments in this highly specialised area. 

The focus for many of the presenters was the ongoing success of the NSW Statewide Eyesight Preschool Screening (StEPS) program, now in its fifth year of operation.

“The StEPS program represents a shift from the traditional vision screening of children in their first year of school, to vision screening of 4 year old children, prior to starting school. The idea is that a child starts school with health issues identified and managed, or management at least started,” said RIDBC Renwick Centre JAFF Research Fellow, Sue Silveira. 

Children may not know they can’t see well or they may have poor vision in only one eye. It’s important to screen children early and set them up for success at school.

“The screening has identified many children who have eye conditions which can be remediated such as needing glasses or patching. This means these kids have their vision restored and they enjoy this good vision into adulthood.”

As an early consultant and advocate - and current member of the StEPS Implementation Committee - Sue has seen the benefits for children and the enhanced educational outcomes through earlier diagnosis.

“StEPS has also identified children with more serious eye conditions and even some with vision loss who have gone on to need low vision support. These children could have really struggled for some time in a classroom environment without the appropriate support.”

During the Forum, staff from RIDBC VisionEd and RIDBC Teleschool provided an insight into the programs and support mechanisms that are available for children with vision loss once they start school, including appropriate technological solutions.

“The connection between diagnosis and educational outcomes for children cannot be underestimated and participants were impressed with the level of support that is offered by our RIDBC educators,” said Sue.

“Assisting children at such a young age, particularly with specialist and mainstream technology, gives them a solid foundation and an appreciation of what the technology can do for them.”

Participants at the Forum included orthoptists working in low vision, eye professionals working in community health and clinical practice; educators working in low vision; nurses working in early childhood and community health, and a range of related therapists.

In 2012, RIDBC Renwick Centre provided over 3000 person days of CPE for teachers, therapists and related professionals in the field of sensory disability.