Category Archives: Children

Short Film: Color Blindness Explained for Children

Quite a while ago Laura Evans created a nine minute documentary short film on the topic What is it Like to be Color Blind? The film gives everyone some insights on color blindness, including an interview with a colorblind person.

Shortly after that she also produced a children’s version, which I would like to show you hereafter:

What is it like to be colorblind?

If you wish to learn more about this project, you can visit Laura Evans website at No Such Thing as Color diretly.

How to Help Your Colorblind Kid

Young children need some time to grasp the concept of color naming. And often during this learning process the parents ask themselves: is my child colorblind or not?

Ronita Baras from Family Matters put together a nice list of things what parents can do if it really is the case. Have a look at the whole list in her article: Is My Kid Color Blind?

I would like to pick a few items of the whole list which I think are very important and eventually add some more.

Tips for Parents of Colorblind Children

  • Make sure all people working with your child know he or she cannot tell the difference between some colors, but do not make a big deal out of it.
  • Ask the teachers to avoid using color coding in exercises, test sheets and marking.
  • Some standard tests are color coded, so ask your child’s teacher to help your child with it.
  • Don’t try to learn colors with your kid (it won’t work!) but instead learn to understand how he or she sees the world.
  • About 8% of all people are colorblind. You might want to try to find a colorblind friend, so they can share their impressions and tricks.
  • Don’t be astonished about a bad color taste in the selection of clothes. Just help your child in choosing matching pieces.
  • Every colorblind person starts to develop some strategies to overcome the handicap. Learn them.

But the most important fact for parents of colorblind kids is: Don’t panic!

The colorblind population is quite big which means your child is definitely not alone. And in most cases color blindness doesn’t really affect their life at all. There are even completely colorblind professors—so be assured that color blindness is not really a handicap on the personal development of your child.

By the way, Ronita writes also about How to Teach Kids Colors which I think is quite useless. A child will learn the concept of colors just through everyday life. Only parents think that the naming of colors is such an important thing which should be learned much earlier. Give your children some time and they will learn it.

Photo taken by James A. Stepp

Color Blindness Seen by Colorblind Boys

Color vision deficiency is in 99% of all cases inherited from the parents to their children. In this case, the boys and girls will be colorblind for their whole lifetime—like most of us colorblind fellows.

If it is not only a weak form of color blindness, the parents will often recognize it between the age of 3 and 10 years. After the diagnosis mothers and fathers are looking for information to help their children. But what about the young boys and girls themselves? Can they understand such an abstract thing as color blindness, what do they think about it and how colorful is their life?

I put together a questionnaire of seven simple questions and had the chance to get them answered by two young boys. Let’s call them Six and Eleven, according to their age.

Simple questionnaire for colorblind children

What are your favorite colors?
Six: Black…. (pause)… and red.
Eleven: Red and black.

Do you like to paint colorful pictures?
Six: No!, well I guess I would. (Interviewer comment: I think his initial answer was because he doesn’t really do much art.)
Eleven: No way!
What do you see if you look at the childrens testing poster?
Six: (Interviewer: He didn’t really see anything.)
Eleven: Nothing.

What does “color blindness” mean to you?
Six: It means people’s colours are different colours.
Eleven: That someone that is colour blind sees colours all messed up.

Can you see rainbows?
Six: Yes.
Eleven: Yes.

What colors have the following animals: elephant, tiger, fox, flamingo, bee, frog, and parrot?
Six: Grey; black & orange; brown, maybe?; pink & black; yellow & black; green; all colours.
Eleven: Grey; black, white & orange; red & white; pink; yellow & black; green; rainbow.

Which colors can you seen on this picture of a clown?
Six: (Interviewer: He pointed at colours and correctly named them – but he had some troubles in the transition yellow, green, blue area.)
Eleven: Umm… Lots.

This are great answers aren’t they? I like it how the two boys find some simple and obvious explanations for color blindness. And even if they really have some problems with colors their life is still very colorful. I hope this are some happy news if you are one of those moms or dads who just found out about the color vision deficiency of your child.

Thanks to Tanya, a mother of two colorblind boys, for going through the questionnaire with Six and Eleven.

Photo taken by Tim Pierce.

The Ishihara Unicorn Shirt

Ishihara Unicorn

Last December Nick offered 50 free shirts with an imprinted Ishihara like unicorn image. They were all given away to colorblind children for free.

He was so kind to send me also two of them for my two little toddlers. As you can see, the shirt is still a little bit to large for my boy.

I showed the shirt to my son and asked him: “What do you see?” His answer was of course: “A horse.” What else dad?

If I look at the image I can see only trees—and a lot of dots. Thanks Nick.

A Gift for the Colorblind

Nick is wrapping the project up. All of the shirts were spoken for and the project was a great success for him. I’m sorry if you couldn’t get one of the shirts for your son or daughter.

Colorblind Shirt Unicorn

Colorblind Shirt Unicorn


My name is Nicholas and I am a grad student at the School of Visual Arts MFA design program in New York City. I have created a color blind pattern for t-shirts that I hope to distribute to young children. The shirts are free for children who have recently found out or have known for some time that they are colorblind. In my own experience I have found that those with no deficiency in color vision often misconceive color blindness as a warped perception of reality. Such is not the case.

So, I have made these shirts to celebrate color blindness and the magical world that the color blind see. In this example, an image of a forest is clear to all, however the unicorn within the forest is only visible to those with normal vision. Actually seeing a unicorn is of course much sillier than being color blind. That which the colorblind see in this world may be more spectacular then one could ever imagine.

This is a one time extreme limited run of 50 shirts with a six color screen print. Sizes run youth medium – adult large. Please specify for whom the shirt is and what size. Once the 50 are gone, I will never print them again.

Also, if you could send a photograph (any quality and doesn’t even need a face) of someone wearing the shirt once received it would be much appreciated.

How does a Total Colorblind Child’s Future look like?

Total color blindness—also known as complete color blindness or monochromacy and with the scientific name achromatopsia—is very uncommon. Less than one out of 30’000 people is affected by this special form of color vision deficiency.

What if your son or daughter suffers from complete color blindness, how might a possible future look like to your child?

I just came to know my sister’s son is total colorblind. He is 12 years old.

  1. Since he is total colorblind, does it mean he sees all color in monochrome gray shades or can he see some of the colors?
  2. What kind of profession should he pursue since he is total colorblind?
  3. Is it fine for him to get work as a software engineer or a doctor?
  4. Is it fine for him to drive when he grows up?

Before answering the above four questions I would like to say a few words about complete color blindness. A young baby suffering from monochromacy will start to twinkle in bright light. Why? Because all cones which are needed for color vision and day vision are absent and therefor vision is solely based on rods. This receptors can’t see colors and are responsible for night vision. This means they are very sensitive to bright light which additionally leads to very poor visual acuity.

This means, if your child really suffers from complete color blindness he or she…

  • …needs strong sunglasses in normal daylight.
  • …has poor visual acuity.
  • …also suffers from nystagmus (nervous eyes).

1. Does he see all color in monochrome gray shades or can he see some of the colors? If you are suffering from achromatopsia you can’t perceive any colors beside black, white and fine tuned shades of gray. There is no feeling or sensation of color at all.

2. What kind of profession should he pursue since he is total colorblind? Unfortunately complete color blindness can be a huge handicap in many professions. But there are many people who showed that also a huge variety of jobs can be done with this deficiency, like Dr. Nordby an internationally recognized vision scientist, lecturer, and writer. You can find more personal job stories in the book Living with Achromatopsia.

3. Is it fine for him to get work as a software engineer or a doctor? To work as a software engineer should cause no insurmountable hurdles. Of course you might need an extra large display and adjust some color settings. But programming is a logical and not a color related job. To work as a doctor could be tougher. A doctor needs good eyesight during his work and also needs to make decisions based on colors. There might be some work which can be done as a complete colorblind person, but it won’t be easy at all.

4. Is it fine for him to drive when he grows up? Unfortunately I have to tell you that you can’t drive when you are suffering from achromatopsia. The handicaps I described above are just to big to be able to safely drive a car.

Please make sure that you also visit the very comprehensive site from the Achromatopsia network. They are also offering two books as pdf download with a lot of specific information on this very special type of complete color blindness: Understanding and Coping with Achromatopsia and Living with Achromatopsia.

Is My Son Colorblind?

Colorful Bricks

When your child starts to learn colors the question of color blindness often arises. Does your child understand the colors correctly? He or she is mixing some colors or can’t name them correctly. Is this color blindness or is it just to early to know?

Many mothers and fathers ask if their son or daughter has a color vision deficiency. Here are some example questions of anxious parents:

  • My son has a hard time with red and yellow. Could my 3 years old be colorblind?
  • Is it too early to tell if my 2 1/2 years old son has problems with colors?
  • When should we test our son for color blindness?

Usually it is all about sons. Because of the inheritance pattern of color blindness, males are by far more often colorblind.

I would like to tackle the question about a possible color vision deficiency of your child with the following three points:

  1. Development of color vision in children.
  2. When to test your child for color blindness.
  3. Why you should check the color vision of your child.

Before I get into the details of the above three topics I would like to say a few words about color blindness itself. In each school class there is on average one colorblind child. Red-green color blindness is the most common form while the terminology is misleading. Every normal colorblind person has a very colorful visual spectrum—just a bit less colorful. This can range from almost the same vision as non-colorblind people to a quite reduced sensation of colors, but still a colorful one.

Only if you have a complete color blindness you would have monochromatic vision. This would allow you to see shades of gray but you couldn’t perceive any real colors at all. This type of color blindness only affects one out of more than 30’000 people and you would recognize it already at a very young age.

1. Development of color vision in children. At the beginning a newborn has to develop its vision. Only after a few weeks a baby can recognize high contrasts in colors like black and white. Color vision evolves steadily and at the age of about six month they have full color vision.

At the age of two a child starts to match colors. They can give you for example a block of the same color you’re holding in your hand. As colors can be matched they still can not grasp the naming of colors yet. This starts at about the age of three years. Only then your boy or girl will name the some main colors correctly.

And it will take another one to three years to name colors accurately. It is said that a child has developed normal color naming between the age of four and six years.

2. When to test your child for color blindness. As we learned in the above section that color vision and color naming evolves slowly the question arises, when is the best moment to test your child for a possible color vision deficiency.

First of all you shouldn’t just check your child for color blindness if there isn’t any evidence for a possible color vision deficiency. It wouldn’t really help you because there is also a possibility that a color blindness test shows a deficiency if there isn’t any. So if you have some evidence, when should you test?

Test for color blindness just before your child will enter kindergarten.

Most of you will ask now, why shouldn’t I test earlier if my son or daughter shows problems with color matching and color naming? I would like to give you a few arguments, why you shouldn’t test earlier.

  • Before kindergarten-age your child might not have developed complete color naming abilities.
  • You shouldn’t push to hard on such things like color vision. Give your child time to learn and understand the concept of colors.
  • Don’t make yourself crazy with a possible and often wrong diagnosis of color blindness of a very young child.
  • Try to understand your child and don’t try to analyze everything. This way you will understand your child much better and you will be able to help him or her much better.
  • It won’t really help your child and you if you know to early about its color blindness. Because your child will not really understand it or he/she will already feel like “having a handicap”.

3. Why you should check the color vision of your child. As I said before, don’t just check in anyway but only if there is some evidence. But if you think your boy might be colorblind, let him check or try some of the online color blindness tests.

And why? Because this way you will learn more about his color vision ability AND know his main problem colors (like red and green) AND last but not least you will understand and learn how to support him and can pass this knowledge on to his teachers.

Even if there is one colorblind child per class on average most teachers are not aware of color vision deficiency and most often don’t know how to handle it. They either don’t know what they can do to help a colorblind child or don’t know the colorblind children in their classes.

If you know about the color blindness of your son, you can not only support him but also help others to understand his vision and how they can help him.

Picture taken by Leonardo Sagnottisome rights reserved.

Do Colorblind Women Have Colorblind Children?

Sometimes a woman finds out about her color blindness and in this case, she is often worried about what will happen to her children.

What is the chance for them to inherit her color vision deficiency? Or is there any possibility at all that they will not be colorblind?

When I had found out that I was colorblind some questions grew to my concern. Apparently I’m red-green colorblind but I honestly don’t see it as a disadvantage on my part. I feel like I see those colors just fine. However when it comes to taking those Ishihara tests I feel almost handicapped for not being able to see them.

Anyways my question was, should I be worried about having colorblind children in the future? I haven’t read much about color blindness and genes but since I am colorblind, then I carry this abnormal gene, right? So if I were to have children with a colorblind male wouldn’t our children be, in fact, colorblind?

Before I answer your questions about the color vision of your children I would like to say a few words about the statements above. If you don’t feel handicapped in everyday life and if you feel like seeing colors just fine, the same will be true for everybody else inheriting color blindness from you.

The above explanations sound like a slight form of color blindness. There is a huge range starting from very slight color vision deficiency up to complete color blindness. The most important about this is that your children will inherit exactly the same type and severity of color blindness as you are suffering from.

Now let us have a closer look at the above questions about inheriting color blindness from a mother to her children:

Do I carry this abnormal gene encoding red-green color blindness? Yes—and that’s not all. You have not only one but two chromosomes which carry the information. Women have two X chromosomes also called sex-chromosomes which encode red-green color blindenss. If only one of them would carry it, you wouldn’t be colorblind.

Should I be worried about having colorblind children in the future? Firstly you don’t have to be worried at all. As I wrote above your color blindness is not very severe so your children will carry the same form of it. So there is nothing to worry about. But you are also right that there is a chance of having colorblind children.

If I were to have children with a colorblind male wouldn’t our children be, in fact, colorblind? Yes. In this case all of your children would be colorblind—if your partner is also red-green colorblind, which is by far the most common type. And in the case that he isn’t colorblind all of your boys would inherit the color blindness from you and would also be colorblind but all your girls wouldn’t be colorblind, because they inherit a normal gene from their father which overrides the abnormal one inherited from you.

To conclude, if you are a colorblind woman there is some chance for your children to inherit it from you. But you shouldn’t be worried because color blindness does most often handicap your children not very much. And best of all, as you know how it feels you we will be able to perfectly help them out whenever they need it.

You can find more information about inheritance patterns of red-green color blindness at The Biology behind Red-Green Color Blindness.

How to Explain Color Blindness to Your Little Boy

Often you won’t recognize if your little boy is colorblind or not until he goes to school or even later.

Sometimes—you might have color vision deficiency in your family or your child just can’t see certain things which stick out to you—you realize that he is colorblind in his early childhood.

We are pretty sure our two-year-old is red-green colorblind. My questions are:

  • How/when do I tell him, and what do I say?
  • What can we do to help him?
  • Can you recommend any books?

First of all I would like to mention that a two-year-old still has to learn all the colors and the correct naming. But it might also be true, that he can distinguish a whole set of colors and match them correctly except some of them. If this happens, what can and should you do?

When do you tell him? Definitely not today and not tomorrow. There is still enough time to learn more about color blindness and to learn together with him, how he can handle the colors. As he won’t really understand the concept you should wait until either, he realizes himself about his handicap and starts asking you about it. Or when he enters kindergarten/school, because colors are often used to symbolize and differentiate certain things.

How do you tell him? There are many different ways to go. You might like to find a friend of him which is also colorblind (every 12th boy is colorblind) as a support. Or point out strength and weaknesses of every family member. Everybody has a little handicap to carry around. As more as you know about color blindness before talking with him, the better you can answer his questions.

What do you say? Maybe you could start looking at a bush with red flowers from a distance he can’t see them. When walking closer, suddenly he will see them. And really close, he will also see the difference in color. Starting from there, you could tell him, that you could see those flowers already from the distance. You also have to tell him, that he relies more on brightness than on hues to distinguish colors—which makes him also a better brightness-differentiater.

What can you do to help him? Use patterns combined with colors to mark things, label his crayons, use well distinguishable colors for his cloths, watch out for color coded subway or bus maps and explain them to him. You can also help him, when you talk with his first teachers as they might not be aware of color blindness. Try to help them to understand his problems and what they can do to help him. And most important, don’t push it to far. He also has to and will learn how to handle it by himself.

Can you recommend any books? There are Arlene Evans Books About Color Blindness which should really help you and your son to understand color vision deficiency in more details.

If you also have some questions about color vision deficiency, don’t hesitate to ask me. Or you might like to subscribe to the RSS feed of Colblindor to get the latest news on any aspects of color blindness.

Looking for Children Games Playable with Severe Color Blindness

Keren contacted me, because her son is severely colorblind. He can’t really play basic games as every children game is in color.

What she is looking for are some board games for her eight year old son, where he could pick up the enjoyment of playing games. Because everything heavily relates to colors, this is not an easy task to accomplish.

I have a son that is colorblind with red, green and blue. He can see colors which have a yellow base. This has made it very hard for him to play basic games as every childs game is in color. I have tried every resource in aid to get him the simplest game and now am writing to you to ask if you know or have any games to your knowledge that he would not have difficulty in playing. His age is 8 and has never done jigsaw puzzles, or played board games.

Concerning the color blindness of her son we could at least find out a bit more of what type he is suffering from. This is important because for you, as a mother or father of a child with a color vision deficiency the first step should always be to try to understand what your child really sees. With this in mind it’s much easier for you to help your child and for your child to tell you about his/her problems.

After asking for more details she wrote me the following sentences. They show us some nice insights what it means to live with a colorblind child.

My son has never spoken in color names and as for his crayon box I have had to label every color. With all his school writing books I have to photocopy in black in white as he is not able to see the pale blue lines he is meant to write on.

All this descriptions point into the direction of some kind of achromatopsia. People suffering from some type of achromatopsia have at most one type of color receptors they can perceive colors through. Therefore they see either only in shades of gray or, when suffering from blue cone monochromacy, can see at most some shades of blue.

This of course means, that children suffering from achromatopsia can only play games which don’t rely on colors. Or the colors must at least be easily distinguishable when transformed to shades of gray. Here is a tip how you could test this:

  1. Take a digital picture of all the game pieces.
  2. Upload the picture on your computer.
  3. Transform it to a grayscale picture (most picture programs support this like the free available Picasa from Google).
  4. See if you still can distinguish all the different parts of the game.

Unfortunately I don’t have that many children games and don’t know of any which are playable even with the handicap of not perceiving colors.

Do you know of any games? Please add your ideas in the comment section to help not only Keren but also all other mothers and fathers facing the same challenge.