Does My Child Have A Colour Vision Problem?

Does your child confuse colours?  When is this confusion normal?  When does this indicate a real problem?  How will a colour vision problem affect your child’s life?


In this example, this 6 year old boy thinks the colours next to each other (in sequence) look the same. You can see how the green and the red type colours are mixed up.  His mum always thought her son’s confusion in colour naming was due to attention problems, now she has the answer!  For many kids and parents, knowing at least what colours are most likely to be confused gives them peace of mind.  You can’t change the way someone sees colour – they are simply born this way.

Did you know, animals can be “colour blind” as well? Colour ‘blindness’ is sometimes used to explain colour confusion but really most people can see colour quite well – its just that they confuse certain colours like red/green on a spectrum.  True colour blindess (known as tritanope) is very rare.

This is how our brain sees colour:

  • Photoreceptors are at the back of our eyes (in the retina) when we look at an object
  • There are two types of photoreceptors: Rods and Cones.
  • Rods are sensitive to light and cones are sensitive to colours.
  • There are three types of cone receptors. It is this that allows us to see our colours.
  • Our three cones are: Red, green and blue.

People who are colour blind will still have at least 2 out of the 3 cones, and in some cases, will have all 3 cones but with one functioning slightly differently. The most common type of colour vision deficiencies are those that affect the red cone and this causes the red and greens to look more or less the same.

Genetically roughly 10% of the male population is colour blind in some way, nearly 20 times more likely than females at 0.5%. Colour vision deficiency is normally not a big deal and normally doesn’t affect everyday school life for a student. It’s all a matter of relativity.  A child who has a colour vision problem will not know it’s a problem until it is brought to their attention.  After all, they have never seen the world in any other way.

Knowing your child’s colour vision diagnosis can help the teacher understand in pre-school and kindergarten when they are learning about colour discrimination and art.  Other subjects like biology and chemistry may also affect them so we would want to make sure they are not disadvantaged.

Obviously certain hobbies, careers and job prospects may be affected if there is a reliance on colour.  So take this into consideration when planning their future.  Further assessments can easily be done and reports can be written which will show your degree of colour vision deficiencies.

Optometrists Association Australia recommends that children have a full eye examination with an optometrist before starting school and at least every two years thereafter. Eye examinations usually attract a Medicare rebate and no referral is required. Vision therapy may attract health insurance benefits.