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How to Know if a Child is Colour Blind and What to do About it

September 17, 2015

For a child, colour blindness can be a pivotal challenge to their development. This cognitive difference between themselves and others may cause them to feel isolated and become discouraged. However, if colour blindness is diagnosed early, parents and friends can do more to help. With that help, the child can grow up to overcome this challenge and enjoy a successful life.

Different Types of Colour Blindness

There are different types of colour blindness that a parent should be aware of. The first and most common is called red-green colour blindness. This means a person is less likely to see distinctions between red hues, green hues, and their derivative colours like brown or purple. The exact cause of this type of colour blindness may vary, however they all have this same effect.

The other two types of colour blindness are far rarer. Blue-Yellow colour blindness is the inability to distinguish between those respective colours. This type is not hereditary and is caused by a mutation. The rarest type is total colour blindness, when the world appears in shades of black, white, and gray.

Predicting Colour Blindness

Perhaps the earliest way to determine if a child is colour blind is by paying attention to genetics. With the most common type of colour blindness, it is possible to predict the likelihood a child will have colour blindness before they are born if the family’s genetic history is well known. Colour blindness is an X-chromosome recessive trait. This means colour blindness will usually come from a mother, though it will be more present in boys.

For example, Sally and her husband decide to start a family. They investigate their genetic history and find out that Sally’s dad is colour blind. Because Sally has her father’s X-chromosome, she is a carrier for colour blindness. As a result, Sally will pass this gene on to her boys, who have a 50% chance to be colour blind. If her husband were colour blind as well, than her daughters would also have a 50% chance for being colour blind.

Early Signs

While genetics can show if your children are at risk for colour blindness, that doesn’t ensure that they will be. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to at-risk children to see if they do develop colour blindness. Children do not develop the ability to identify colours until the age of two. Even then, they usually cannot properly name colours until the age of 4. Here are some ways to tell if a child might be colour blind:

  • Colour blind children will commonly describe objects using the wrong colour. For example, they may have difficulty distinguishing between red and green apples.
  • Colour blind children often deny colour issues, usually because they aren’t completely aware of them or they don’t want to be seen as different.
  • Colour blind children identify colours with greater difficulty in poor lighting or if they are next to similar hues.
  • Colour blind children often experience increased eye sensitivity and vision problems. However good night vision can be a result of colour blindness.
  • Colour blind children may have a powerful sense of smell as the brain compensates for vision problems. Children may even smell their food before they start eating, showing they trust of their nose over their eyes.
  • Colour blind children will often avoid games that involve coloured patterns or colouring books.

What Can a Parent Do?

If your child has the possibility of being colour blind, indicated by their genetics or developmental challenges, then its best to get them tested as soon as possible. Medical testing can determine definitively if the child is colour blind or not. Once the diagnosis is made, parents need to be proactive and help their child learn how to overcome their disability. Here is a list of what parents can do to help their children become successful and independent:

  • Parents can teach children the right colour associations. Up until the diagnosis, children will not understand they do not see all the colours everyone else can. One solution is to label items in the house with their respective colours. This will help the child build the correct colour associations, enabling them to do well in school and future careers.
  • Parents should be involved in their student’s education and inform teachers that their child has colour blindness. Parents should help children to not feel embarrassed by their difference, and they should encourage them to seek help from the teacher and classmates as needed. Special learning techniques can help the child stay on par with their classmates and be just as competitive in later life.
  • Parents can help their children accept their colour blindness. If a child makes a mistake with colours, they should be encouraged to not take it personally. This will enable the child to learn how to cope with the world around them. Colour blind people hold regular jobs and are as successful as anyone else. Children should be aware of their colur blindness, and taught that it does not have to limit them in any way.

While colour blindness can be a unique challenge, it is not something that need be feared. Most children born with colour blindness have overcome this issue to live happy and successful lives. Detecting the issue early on allows parents to build a loving and encouraging environment for their colour blind child.