Early Symptoms

Spotting the Early Symptoms of Colour Vision Deficiency in Children

The main symptom of colour blindness is a difficulty in distinguishing colours or in making mistakes when identifying colours. If a child is suspected of being colour blind the main clues to look out for are:-

  • using the wrong colours for an object – e.g. purple leaves on trees, particularly using dark colours inappropriately
  • low attention span when colouring in work sheets
  • denial of colour issues
  • problems in identifying red or green colour pencils or any colour pencil with red or green in its composition. (e.g. purple, brown)
  • identification of colour may be made worse by low level light, small areas of colour and colours of the same hue
  • smelling food before eating
  • excellent sense of smell
  • excellent night vision
  • sensitivity to bright lights
  • reading issues with coloured pages or work sheets produced with colour on colour
  • children may complain that their eyes or head hurt, if looking at something red on a green background, or vice versa

Colour blind children may not like to colour in pictures or want to play counting or sorting games with coloured blocks or beads.

Normal Vision

Deuteranopia

If you think your child might be colour blind don’t waste any time in finding out if they are. You should immediately be suspicious if there are any colour blind men on the mother’s side of the family – these could be uncles, great uncles, cousins and grandfathers. By age 5 children with normal colour vision will be able to identify all of the groups of colours in a couple of seconds, but a colour blind child may also appear to be able to do this.

To give yourself a basic indication of whether there might be a problem with your child’s colour vision, 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.

Praise your child for identifying colours correctly and make sure that they know that there are no right and wrong answers. Also ensure that there are no other people around, especially siblings. If you are suspicious that your child might be colour blind, whatever you do, DO NOT follow up this exercise by questioning them about colours of items around the house. If you do this they may clam up and will certainly start to feel lacking in self-worth.

Where to get a diagnosis
What to do next