Approximately 300 million people worldwide are color blind. A majority of these people are male. What is color blindness? Why does it happen? What should we do about it? Sugar Mill Montessori School offers answers to these questions and more.
One of the early concepts we teach our children is color. At preschool age (and earlier), they are routinely asked to identify red, yellow, and blue, the primary colors. They then progress to green, purple, orange, and more.
It’s very difficult to identify color-blindness in young children because we can’t tell if they simply don’t know the name of a color, or there’s an issue with their vision. For example, a five-year-old boy may frequently mistake purple for blue or vice versa. Deep blue and purple crayons look a lot alike. Is he confused, or does he see no difference in the crayons?
It is important to note that men are much more likely than women to be color blind. About 8% of all men and 0.5% of all women are affected.
Color Blindness Testing
The most widely used test for color blindness is the Ishihara Color Vision Test. Named after a Japanese ophthalmologist, the test consists of a series of circles containing patterns of seemingly random colored dots.
While you can perform a preliminary screening at home on a computer, the results will not be definitive due to variations in color representation. Your pediatrician can accurately assess color vision during an office visit.
Types of Color Blindess
The most common is red-green color blindness. Deuteranopia makes green look reddish. Protanopia makes red look less bright and more green. Tritanopia makes it difficult to tell the difference between blue and green – and yellow and pink – and makes colors less bright.
There are other, less common types of color blindness, such as monochromatism, dichromatism, and anomalous trichromatism, which your doctor can explain in detail.
Implications of Color Blindness
As you can see in the image above, a child with red-green color blindness (deuteranopia or protanopia) sees red as brownish-green, green almost the same as red, and blue and purple both look blue.
In toddlers and preschool-age children, this will affect color identification. They will struggle with differentiating certain colors and shades. The implications of this are far-reaching.
Teachers often use colors when teaching. Games, color-by-number, and other activities use colors as part of the activity. If your child cannot see the colors, a teacher may think they don’t know their colors or that they are not following directions.
For example, if a teacher uses colors on a smartboard or overhead projector to signify different stages in problem-solving, the color blind child will lose that part of the instruction. A physical education teacher may have red or green tops to identify teams. All teachers should be aware of your child’s problems.
Because your child can not see colors the same way everyone else does, they likely won’t understand why they are being told they are incorrect.
What You Can Do
- Ensure that your pediatrician tests your child for color blindness.
- Inform your child’s teachers, including special area teachers (physical education, etc.) that your child is color blind and will need cues that are not based on colors.
- You may need to do this yearly to make sure new teachers are aware.
- Find out how teachers will help your child during exams or other times they need color awareness.
- Make sure crayons and markers have color names on them.
- Use colors you know they can see.
- Encourage your child to let you know if they are experiencing difficulties related to their color blindness.
- Discuss the issue with your pediatrician.
As always, if you have any questions, contact us!