Color Blindness 101

A while ago I wrote a blog about how I think Mateo and Andreas are color blind. My Dad is color blind, and between the boys confusing all the same colors that he does – and how long it took them to learn their colors in the first place, we were pretty sure that both of them are color blind. My third boy had his colors down sometime when he was 2. I don’t remember. Purple, green, red, pink, grey, brown, orange – all of it made sense to him. My big boys were almost in kindergarten before they learned theirs, and even then their accuracy was and is kind of spotty.

In case anybody is curious about such nerdy things, this oddity is genetic. My daddy-o made me and my sisters carriers, and I passed it on to 2 of my 3 boys. In fact, because I carry this mutated X chromosome while my husband does not – any sons we have, all have a 50% chance of being color blind, and any daughters we have will not be color blind but WILL have a 50% chance of carrying the gene to pass on to their own children. The same is true for my sisters if their childrens’ fathers are not color blind. At least, this is my basic and limited understanding that I got from this nifty little CHART I found online.

Because this is how I roll, I texted my Dad tonight to thank him for the crappy DNA. He was happy to share it.

How do they figure out if a person is color blind? Super easy. You know those funky looking circles with numbers in them that they make you look at, at the eye doctor’s office? Sure you do. Looks like this:

color circles

Well guess what? My boys cannot – CANNOT – see the numbers in those circles. I was laughing at them while they tried to make out numbers, but alas they could not, and in fact they kept looking back at me as if this was some kind of trick question and they were waiting for us to say we were joking. No jokes. “What number do you see?” was met with an answer of, “there is no number!” They see colors, but they don’t see them the same way people with normal color vision see colors.

Mateo confessed to me today that he recently drew a picture and colored the grass tan because it looked like green so he thought tan was a kind of green. Luckily, both of my boys can read and they can check what color they’re using that way. But if they don’t know the color they’re reading – like “tan” – they may still mess it up.

To be honest, if my own Dad wasn’t color blind, I probably may not have picked up on it with my boys. I probably would have figured they sucked at colors, or didn’t care – kind of like how Mateo doesn’t care about spelling so I bought him a dictionary and told him to learn to use it this year. I mean, kids are weird right? I think this is one of those things that you don’t know what you’re looking at unless you know what you’re looking at.

For my sisters and I, we grew up eating half burnt meat because my Dad was so paranoid about what color the meat was that he always overcooked it. Pink? Brown? Can’t tell? SEAR IT. Sear it till it’s 100 times dead. Better safe than sorry. We joke about how much denim he wears, but what else is a color blind man to wear? Denim jeans and denim tops are all denim. Can’t screw that up. When my Dad actually wears a real, actual color that isn’t blue or black, everybody teases him. He doesn’t shop without my mom. And until we got busted for it, I used to call him at work to let him know when my mom had dyed her hair so that he could come home and say something nice, because otherwise he wouldn’t notice. “What color is this?” is a normal question for a grown man to ask all the time. When he’s color blind. It’s a normal thing for a kid to ask all the time too – when he’s color blind like his Grandpa.

The weird thing for me is Olivier NOT being color blind. The one who is normal is the one who stands out in our house. This is not surprising anymore. We are getting really good at not being normal. Being weird is almost a special talent at this point.

EDITED to add a note for parents and teachers:
Last year Mateo’s substitute teacher had told me that he wasn’t able to do patterning well. Which I thought was crazy, but I didn’t bother arguing because his regular teacher was about to return anyway. Then tonight I realized – the sub was probably doing patterns using colors, and he probably wasn’t seeing the difference between them, and so he probably wasn’t able to produce or reproduce them properly. So if you are a teacher or a parent with a kid who isn’t getting the whole sorting and patterning thing, then maybe – just maybe – said kid might be color blind. Especially if said kid seems to be getting “it” with other related concepts.
There are probably other ways that color blindness can cause a problem at school but this is one that really jumps out in my memory as being significant and worth coming back to note. 🙂

copyright (c) 2013 Jenna Pelias // all rights reserved

3 thoughts on “Color Blindness 101

  1. My aunt keeps telling me, as I roll from one medical misadventure to another (which is beginning to happen with startling regularity), that I simply had poor selection of grandparents.

    Yeah, that explains it all.


  2. My son’s kindergarten teacher marked his purple crayon with masking tape so he could differentiate it from blue. (red-green deficiency was the cool pediatrican’s terminology) – but cooler than cool, Luke – now 19 – is a cinematographer and even color corrects like a boss 🙂


    1. Oh that is very cool! My oldest recently colored a big poster board sized picture with a purple sky by accident! I told him it looked like a sunset and he added some blue and it looked awesome! So maybe there are some more happy accidents to be had from this color blind thing. 🙂


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