Identifying early symptoms of colour blindness in children
If you suspect that your child might be colour blind, act on it immediately. Read on to find out some basic things you should know about colour blindness in children.
In this day and age, when it concerns eyesight, parents tend to worry most about whether their child will need to wear specs. While of course short and long-sightedness are common problems associated with children’s vision, there are other things to look out for as well. One such condition that needs more awareness is colour blindness in children
What is colour blindness in children?
Colour blindness, or colour vision deficiency, is the inability to distinguish the differences between certain colours. The condition results from an absence of colour-sensitive pigment in the cone cells of the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye.
Colour blindness in children is mostly inherited and the condition is present from birth. An estimated 1 out of 12 boys and 1 out of 20 girls are colour blind.
Symptoms of colour blindness in children
The main symptom of colour blindness in children is difficulty in distinguishing colours or making mistakes when identifying colours. If you suspect that your child is colour blind, these are some symptoms that you should look out for:
- mismatching objects and colours (especially dark colours) – eg: purple leaves on trees
- short attention span when colouring
- denial of colour issues
- trouble identifying red or green colour pencils or colour pencils with red and green in its composition (eg: red & brown)
- colour identification problem exacerbated when there are low levels of light, small areas of colour and colours of the same hue
- smelling food before consuming
- excellent sense of smell
- excellent night vision
- sensitivity to bright lights
- problems reading coloured pages or worksheets produced with colour on colour
- complain that their eyes or head hurt when looking at something red on a green background or vice versa
Colour blindness in children also causes them to dislike colouring in pictures or playing counting or sorting games with coloured blocks or beads.
Testing for colour blindness in children
This may not be a definitive diagnosis, but for a rough gauge of whether or not there is a problem with your child’s colour vision, try this simple test:
Get a sheet of white paper and a set of at least 12 different coloured pencils. Make sure that you have these colours:
green, red, brown, orange, blur, purple, grey
Avoid using shades that are too pale or too dark. It’s best to go with mid-range shades. Shade an area of approximately 2cm by 2cm of each colour, onto the paper. Use the colours in random order and don’t have all the reds and greens together.
Do place red, green and brown adjacent to each other.
Take your child and the paper to a area with good natural lighting. What you don’t want is bright, artificial light or strong sunlight. Play a game with your child in which he should identify all the colours on the sheet.
Show your child all the colours at the same time and not individually.
If your child appears uncertain if a colour is red, green, brown, purple, blue or grey, there is a fair chance that he is colour blind. However, do note that a red or green colour blind child would be still able to identify bright orange, yellow and pink. The reason they are able to identify these colours is by brightness and shade.
You should still include these colours so that your child doesn’t feel lousy or that he is too dumb for the game.
When your child identifies colours correctly, praise him generously and assure him that there are no right and wrong answers. It’s best that you conduct this test alone with your child.
Please note that if you suspect that your child is colour blind, don’t follow up by asking them to identify colours of common household items. It would make them feel awful to keep getting the wrong answers.
Where to diagnose colour blindness in children
Upon making your preliminary diagnosis, the next step would be to see an optician for a formal diagnosis. Your child’s school may conduct regular eye-checks as well but don’t be too happy if they don’t raise any red flags for they may not have tested for colour blindness.
You need to specify that you are testing for colour blindness.
Do not underestimate the importance of obtaining a formal diagnosis for colour blindness in children. You need to inform your child’s school about his condition so that exemptions can be made for examinations and so on. For example, science lab experiments require children to identify certain substances by colour. You would be shortchanging your child by not informing the school as soon as possible.
In addition, the school can render more support and help your child work around the problem.
Colour blindness may also stand in the way of your child and his dream career. For example, a child with colour blindness would not be able to become a pilot. It’s important that you communicate this to him early in life, and help him to better understand his condition.
Living with colour blindness in children
While colour blindness is a special need, children with this condition continue to attend mainstream schools in Singapore. This can get tricky for most teachers aren’t trained to handle children with colour blindness.
To make things a little easier, whenever your child has a new teacher, make it a point to tell the form teacher about his condition. Provide her with some background information and the strategies you use at home to help your child to cope. This can help her to ensure that her classroom is inclusive and provides your child a safe and happy environment to learn in.
Get your child a full set of colour pencils and have all the colours labelled clearly. This will come in really handy.
Again, when it comes to examinations, your child might have some exemptions or extra time. Ensure that you have all the medical reports in place.
As your child gets older, expose him to websites like Colour Blind Kids so that he knows he isn’t alone in his struggles.
At home, always remind your child that his condition is nothing to be ashamed of. Make jokes and ease the tension. Remember, you don’t want your child to feel embarrassed.
As far as possible, avoid giving instructions solely based on colour! Eg: Can you place this on the yellow table?
Colour blindness in children also causes them to find some food repulsive and they may get frustrated while playing games. Don’t get angry, be patient with your child and help him to work around the problem!