Color Blindness in Boys

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Color blindness affects a lot of boys.

In fact, 1 in 12 males are color blind. They perceive color differently than most humans. Some see shades of tan instead of vivid reds and greens. Some see life in black, white, and grey. Many don’t realize that they see things differently than their peers, teachers, and parents. And many parents and teachers don’t realize that their boys are colorblind – which can lead to unnecessary learning complications and affect boys’ learning.

Signs of Color Blindness

Jessica Fleming, a writer & mom of 4 sons (currently age 9, 7, 5, and 5), first realized her 7-year-old son’s vision was different when she asked her boys to sort the books in her office by color. After a few minutes, her oldest son declared, “Everett doesn’t know his colors!” and pointed out a couple out-of-place books, including a pink tome. Further questioning revealed that her second-grade son was as confused by his “mistakes” as the rest of his family.

Then Jessica remembered that she had an uncle who was colorblind. She found a color blindness test online, administered it to her son, and learned he has a vision deficiency. A follow up visit to an ophthalmologist revealed that her son has a red/green vision deficiency, the most common kind of color blindness. To him, red and green look virtually the same — almost like a khaki brown.

Some kids who are colorblind don’t like art — so pay attention and dig a little deeper if your son avoids (or complains about!) art activities. (P.S. Sam, Jen’s son, is not colorblind!)

Unfortunately, color blindness is often not diagnosed until a child is in middle school. Some people are adults when they first realize they are color blind.

How Color Blindness Affects Boys’ Education

Contrary to popular belief, color blindness can affect quality of life. Early childhood and elementary school education depends heavily on color cues and visual processing, so kids who are colorblind may struggle in school. Many children who are colorblind are in special ed classes – perhaps because they couldn’t see and access information as easily as their peers.

If you suspect (or know) that your son is colorblind, tell his teachers ASAP. Simple accommodations, such as printing things in black-and-white instead of color, can help him. Ensuring a high contrast between print and background colors is also helpful. Another: Instead of color-coding maps and graphs, use patterns, such as polka dots and stripes. Be sure art supplies are labeled with the color name. Color vision-correcting glasses are also available.

Kids who are color blind are also eligible for a 504 plan.

Testing Can Easily Detect Color Blindness

Only 11 states test for colorblindness during vision screenings at school, even though the test is non-invasive, cheap, and easy to administer. Jessica recommends administering an online screening test to all kids.

In this episode, Jen, Janet, & Jessica discuss:
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Types of color blindness
  • Testing for color blindness
  • Genetics of color blindness
  • Adaptations to help kids who are color blind
  • Advocating for color blind kids
Links we mentioned (or should have) in this episode:

Countless Kids are Colorblind – and Don’t Know About It. Here’s How to Help — Jessica’s Washington Post article

Roanoke City Schools Discover Hundreds of Students May be Color Blind

Enchroma online color blindness test

Myths & Misconceptions About Boys — previous ON BOYS episode with Jessica

Boy Moms as Boys Advocates — ON BOYS episode with Gemma Gaudette


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