As an Early Childhood Special Educator, I get asked quite frequently about color blindness. Often parents are concerned about color blindness because of a child being slightly delayed in learning colors. Color blindness is not as common at it may seem. However, studies show that approximately 1 child in each classroom has color blindness.
So, lets talk a little more about color blindness. What is a person actually seeing when they are color blind? Black and White???? No, it is VERY rare for someone to have “Monochromasy Color blindness” or complete lack of any color sensation. Most of the time, it is a weakened sensation of a certain color a certain color group. Actually, there are few different types of color blindness. To find out more about the types of color blindness and the prevalence check out this Website for complete details.
We are going to talk a little more today about color blindness in children. What it is, how to know and what to do once you have a child who has been diagnosed with color blindness.
(Boys are much more likely to have color blindness because of the “inheritance pattern” or the genetics behind it all.)
What are the signs I should be looking for?
The biggest symptom of color blindness is obviously trouble distinguishing between colors or making consistent mistakes when identifying colors. You may notice some of the following things in a child who is color blind:
- Your child may have a hard time identifying red or green crayons or objects or any colors with red or green in their makeup. (purples, browns etc…)
- Denial of color struggles
- Using the wrong color consistently for objects. For example- purple grass or leaves or using dark colors inappropriately. (Remember, young children who are just learning their colors and who are exploring art may do this. Don’t jump to conclusions of color blindness.)
- Low interest in coloring work sheets or color activities.
- Heightened sense of smell (You may notice your child smelling their food before they eat it).
- Heightened night vision
- Sensitivity to bright lights
- You may also notice that your child complains of eye soreness or head aches when having to look at certain colors too long. (Red on a green back ground/green on a red back ground)
- Your child may have trouble reading colored pages or working on work sheets that are colored.
- Color confusion and identification is made worse by low level light or colors of the same shade or hue.
When should I be concerned?
By about the age of 5 your child should know all their colors and be able to distinguish between them and identify between them within a few seconds. However, if you have any concern by about the age of 3 you should not delay in getting your child checked out.
If you have any color blind men on the mother’s side of the family (uncles, great uncles, cousins grandfathers) your child is at higher risk of being color blind.
If you suspect your child is color blind Color Blind Awareness suggests doing the following quick exercise with your child.
“Get a sheet of white paper and a set of colouring pencils – at least 12 different colours but including green, red, brown, orange, blue, purple and grey. Use mid range shades, not too pale or too dark– and shade an area of about 2cm by 2cm of each colour onto the paper. Make sure that the colours are in a random order and you don’t have all the reds or greens together, but do place red, green and brown adjacent to each other.
Take the paper and your child to an area with good natural light (but not bright light, artificial light or strong sunlight) and make a game up which involves asking your child to identify all of the colours on the sheet. Do not show them each colour individually, they must be able to see all of the colours at the same time.
If your child shows signs that they are not sure whether a colour is red, green, brown, purple, blue or grey, there is a reasonable chance that they are red/green colour blind. You should expect a red/green colour blind child to be able to identify bright orange, yellow and pink (they can identify these colours by brightness and shade). Make sure you include these colours so that they do not get the impression that they are too stupid for the game.”
Talk to your pediatrician right away with any concerns about color blindness.
So, you have a diagnosis….now what? How can you help your child succeed in school? (If you have a child who has color blindness, share these tips with their teacher to help them succeed in the classroom).
- As your child begins to read, make sure all coloring and art utensils are labeled with the name of the color.
- Teach your child what color common objects are. (Grass is green, sky is blue etc…) They will more easily be able to color a page when they know, “I need to color grass, I need a crayon labeled “Green”.”
- Use white chalk on a chalk board instead of colored (Seriously, does anyone use chalk boards anymore?) For a whiteboard- ask your child’s teacher to use a black marker when writing and to not color code items on the white board.
- Make black and white photo copies of any textbooks or materials that are printed on colored paper or that are printed in colored ink. For example: Black writing on red or green paper may look like black on black to some children who are color blind.
- If your child feels comfortable have the teacher assign them some close friends to help them during coloring activities. If this makes your child feel uncomfortable- do not do it
- Let your child know that if they cannot learn a certain color or if they can not differentiate between certain colors that you understand and it is OKAY.
- Be very patient with your child! It is easy to get frustrated with your child when they try to guess a color. They may do this because of being self conscious about their color blindness. You may also notice your child panicking when being asked a color or when working on color coded projects (Colored maps, pie charts etc…) (This most commonly happens when a diagnosis hasn’t been made yet.)
- Do not color code at home and ask for your teacher to not color code items at school. If your teacher does color code items ask them to write the name of the color on the object.
- Keep in mind: Standardized tests are often not color blind friendly! Make sure your child is getting services they deserve under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act when it comes to testing and schooling.
- Make sure all craft items are labeled well. (Including markers, paper, pens, paints etc…) The last thing you want is your child falling behind and becoming disinterested in art!
- Help make other children in the class are aware of color blindness and what it is! There are plenty of tests and pictures you can show to help kids understand what your child sees. Again- if your child is uncomfortable with this–you may want to skip it!
To try out some interesting color blind screenings and to see what a child/person with color blindness sees check out these fun charts.
Always remember, with any concerns with your child’s health or development ask your child’s Pediatrician immediately. Do not delay. Waiting can cause further delays and complications.