"If a learning disability is suspected, an eye exam by a pediatric ophthalmologist is appropriate to rule out colorblindness," says Steidl. The tests consist of displays made up of different colored dots with numbers hidden inside. A test for younger children contains simple objects hidden in the dots — objects that young kids recognize like circles, stars and squares. A child who is colorblind can't see the numbers or objects hidden inside the dots.
If you're not colorblind, try to picture a colored pie chart in a textbook. Every slice of pie is the exact same, indistinguishable color. Imagine ordering pants from a mail-order catalog in which each pair looks exactly alike. How about trying to tell if the stoplight is yellow or red when both colors appear to be the same shade of amber?
A host of activities can trip up colorblind kids. In the beginning, coloring maps might be difficult at school. Later, interpreting a litmus paper reaction, telling a friend at the beach whether or not he is sunburnt, knowing when meat is raw or well-done, or distinguishing between ripe and green tomatoes or chocolate syrup and ketchup can all offer challenges.
In addition, some foods look downright unappealing to those who can't distinguish certain colors. So, if your colorblind child turns his nose up at spinach, try to give him a break — to him it may look like a brownish cow patty.
A Little History of Colorblindness
The Allies sent colorblind soldiers to spot German camps during World War II, since they weren't fooled by camouflage. In this instance colorblindness was an advantage. However, a few occupations do require perfect color vision. Some include: pilot, firefighter, police officer and electrician.
But don't despair — there's a palette of careers that don't demand a perfect mark on the color test. And some successful folks were thought to be colorblind, including artists Renoir and Van Gogh.
Is Your Child Colorblind?
Colorblind kids have a hard time recognizing colors. They confuse pastels and other off-shades. They may call Barney blue or their toys the wrong colors. Drawing people with green faces or Santa wearing a brown suit is not uncommon. Kids can be tested for colorblindness as early as age 3. "Color testing can and should also be done at school screening examinations," says Dr. Steidl.