Eye Spy

Is There A Color Blind Test For Kids? Yes, But Here’s What You Should Know

Pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Richard Hertle has the 411.

Written by Team Scary Mommy
Originally Published: 
To get a color blind test for kids, you should plan to visit the optometrist.
Vladimir Vladimirov/E+/Getty Images

As a parent, it can be hard to watch your child struggle with something that most of their friends and peers have no problem doing. This could be everything from speech and language skills, to cognitive development, to being able to recognize and identify different shapes and colors. And when it comes to challenges with colors, it may be more complicated than your child taking a little longer to learn their names. In some cases, this could be a sign that your child may have some sort of color deficiency disorder — a condition that exists on a spectrum but is often incorrectly referred to as "color blindness." In your quest to help your child, you may be wondering if there is such a thing as a color blind test for kids. And, yes, there are several out there that can be used to determine whether a child sees colors differently.

On the plus side, that means you won't have to wait around for years to find out if this is something that is impacting your child. The catch? As with many things in life, not all color blind tests are created equal. Here's what you should know about how a child gets tested for color blindness (aka color deficiency), including the age at which tests can detect the condition.

What is color deficiency disorder in kids?

First things first: When referring to "color blindness" in kids (or adults, for that matter), what we're likely referring to is actually "color deficiency," Richard Hertle, MD, FAAO, FACS, FAAP, chief of pediatric ophthalmology and director of the Vision Center at Akron Children's Hospital, tells Scary Mommy.

"We prefer to use the term 'color deficiency,' since it is extremely rare to have [actual] color blindness, where a person sees the world in only 'black and white,'" Hertle says. "All persons with color deficiency disorders have some perception of color, but it is different than normal." In short, children with color deficiency disorders may have trouble recognizing the difference between certain colors.

Color deficiency disorders in children are a genetic defect resulting from the loss of a retinal pigment in the "cone" cells, he adds. And because color deficiency is in the genetic makeup of the retinal cells, Hertle points out that it's permanent and not something a child can grow out of as they age.

Does color blindness affect more males or females?

Color deficiency disorders are more common in men/boys than women/girls, with the condition affecting one in 10-12 men and one in 200 women. According to Hertle, there are roughly 300 million people with color deficiency disorders worldwide, with the common form being "red-green" (where people can't tell the difference between the two colors).

"Men more than women [have color deficiency disorders] due to the fact that women carry the gene for color blindness on one of their X chromosomes without suffering symptoms, because females have a second 'normal' X chromosome while males only have one X chromosome," Hertle explains. "If the male child receives the abnormal X from mom with the color defect gene, the male child has symptoms."

At what age is color blindness detected?

If you suspect your child may be dealing with color deficiency disorder, you probably have a lot of questions. And that's normal! It's not always easy to tell, especially with young children. To that end, you're probably also curious about the age color blindness in children can be detected — like, for example, if you can test a four-year-old for color blindness.

According to Hertle, color deficiency disorders are typically suspected by families and formally tested for and diagnosed around school age, or when a child is between three and five years old.

So, what are some of the signs and symptoms of color deficiency disorders in children that parents should look out for? Hertle says that if "the child does not react, name, or point out colors in the same way as other family members," it's a sign you should test them.

How is a child tested for color blindness?

According to Hertle, there are several standard, commercially available tests — many of which schools, daycares, and primary care offices use.

There are also multiple online color blindness tests for kids. For example, Colorlite's red-green color deficiency test involves showing illustrations to children where a familiar animal shape in one color is surrounded by another color. Other free online color blindness tests can be used by children and adults (as long as the kids can read/recognize numerals).

But here's what parents need to keep in mind: These online assessments aren't the same as diagnostic tests administered by pediatricians, opticians, and other clinicians. "My suggestion is that families combine any online information with a professional consultation to diagnose any visual system disorder, including color deficiency," Hertle says.

What is the EnChroma Color Blind Test?

The EnChroma Color Blind Test is a test created by Enchroma. Inc of Berkeley, CA. which specializes in the development of lens technology to help people with color blindness. The Enchroma Color Blind Test helps parents understand whether their child is color blind through number mode and shape images. It is considered one of the leading online screening tools for color vision deficiency.

Before the test, it's important to remove your glasses and any colored lenses. If you don't, it will affect your results and lead to an inaccurate diagnosis. You also want to ensure the brightness on your screen is set to high because light is key to seeing the colors correctly. This test is engineered to determine someone's level of color blindness. It's based on the Ishihara "hidden digit" test, which Professor Shinobu Ishihara developed at the University of Tokyo.

Are there any treatments or coping strategies to help color-deficient children?

There are no current treatment regimens or devices to restore or "normalize" color vision deficiencies, Hertle notes. However, he says there is hope that the field of artificial intelligence may, at some point, be able to use virtual reality technology to provide a way for people with color deficiency disorders to experience and appreciate the world's full spectrum of color. For now, Hertle emphasizes, "It is important to increase awareness of the family, teachers, coaches, and caretakers of the child's color deficiency so that that allowance can be made for performance in any of these environments."

It’s also important to note Enchroma makes a patented lens that allows people with color blindness to see the more colors of the spectrum. It's done through light filter technology and aims to correct the common red and green color palette that people with color blindness usually see.

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