A toddler doesn’t care if the world he or she sees is wearing the same beautiful colors as those others see, but the parents probably do. Being color blind as an adult isn’t necessarily a big deal; accommodations can be made, and most of the time, a thing’s true color is incidental. For parents though, color blindness in toddlers is both confusing and potentially more upsetting. As young children may not yet have the conceptual skills or vocabulary to express what they perceive, determining if a youngster is colorblind can be a daunting task. One telling symptom is a child who has learned to categorize objects by number and type but does not consistently identify colors.
People who aren’t color blind might wrongly assume it means the inability to see any color at all. In fact, color blindness exists along a continuum. Some color blind individuals see the world in black, white, and shades of gray. Others can’t distinguish between red and green or shades of red or green. It’s especially difficult to determine color blindness in toddlers, much less where on the continuum such a visual deficiency might land.
Many color blind adults reflect back to childhood and realize they weren’t even aware what they saw was different from what their teachers and classmates saw. This is especially true for those with only mild color blindness. While this is comforting to parents dealing with color blindness in toddlers, it doesn’t erase the desire to know what the child actually sees.
A parent who has been working with a youngster over a period of time learning colors might notice if the child either consistently calls everything that is red or green by one of the terms only. Another clue is a child that arbitrarily announces, for example, that raspberries are green and tree leaves are red then switches them around. Color blindness in toddlers is often identified in just this way. The chances increase considerably if these children are boys because 99% of children with the inability to distinguish between green and red are male.
One way to try to determine if a young child is red/green color blind or just confused is to create an identification game. Using colored index cards with a range of shapes on them in contrasting colors can help a parent or teacher understand what it is the child sees or fails to see. If a child doesn’t see a red circle drawn on a green card or tells you a red circle drawn on a yellow card is really green, that’s a strong indication that color blindness might be present.