The Day He Couldn’t See Colour

My son is 3 and a half and has always been terrible at recognising his colours.  Awful in fact.

3 months ago I picked up on how terrible it was and got hubby to mention it to nursery, who assured me that he seemed to have no problem with colours (I beg to differ), but that they would spend more time with him on it.

One night I had a book about colours and switched between two colours and by the time I’d told him the 2nd colour and flipped back to the first, he’d forgotten what it was called. I was really cross with him. How hard could this be to remember the word RED?

On Saturday I discovered he was colourblind.

I feel awful.

It didn’t come as a big surprise because I’M colourblind. Unusual for a woman, but can happen. I really thought I couldN’ pass it on.  That it was an anomaly for me and I could only pass the carrier gene.  I was wrong.

I had posted something on Facebook where I had mentioned it (in relation to the fact that he has no problem recognising car badges) and a few old school friends who were enjoying their Saturday night with wine reminded me about my genes and started doing a bit of research online.

Whilst they did that, I found an online pic that DIDN’T involve numbers so The Monster could do a sort of test.  I will take him to an optometrist to get an official diagnosis. They key and explanation is at the bottom of this post.

colourblind test

He saw what I saw.  There was no doubt, he was severe red/green just like me.

We had studied colourblind genes in our Science class when I was 14.  In fact that is where I was diagnosed with it.  I was the weirdo in the class who saw different numbers and couldn’t see what everyone else could see.  I knew I had got my colourblindness from my dad, but what was really scary was that I was the one that helped him with all the electrical wiring in the house and cars, he hadn’t thought for a second that I would be colourblind.  Somehow we didn’t short circuit or blow anything up.

At 18 I wore a blue skirt to work for 6 months, as a white shirt and blue skirt was the uniform.  One of my colleagues mentioned that nobody wore the uniform anymore and I challenged her on it, because I did. I wore it the next day and was told my skirt was green!  In fact, as soon as I was told I then could perceive the greenish tint to it.  To me it mostly blue though.  Still, highly embarrassing.

My friend posted this up on my facebook status.  It shows the relationship really clearly and I realised I would pass the gene to every son I ever had.  Just the one now thank goodness.  I found it really useful for giving my sister a heads up too.

Table 1 and 2

Table 3 and 4

Colourblindness affects  1 in 12 boys and 1 in 200 girls.  40% of children do not know they are colour blind on leaving school, therefore teachers are not even likely to be aware that some children they teach have the condition. Likewise, most parents are unaware of their child’s condition.  Just like my parents.

Colour blind children will not just confuse red and green (in fact I don’t confuse them at all and TM recognises green but has difficulty with red), they will be unable to distinguish any colours which contain red or green, for example they will ‘see’ purple as blue because they cannot perceive the red element of the light spectrum which is added to blue to form the colour purple. Therefore all reds, greens, oranges, browns, purples, blues and greys will be impossible to identify accurately.

What worries me is the types of job he WON’T be able to do, now we know he is colourblind. These are the list I found online:

  • Join the army if your are red/gree colour blind
  • Custom and Excise officer
  • Civil Aviation Pilot, engineer, technical and maintenance staff, air traffic controller
  • Hospital laboratory technician or pharmacist
  • Paint, paper, textile manufacturer
  • Railway driver, engineer or maintence.  I won’t break this to him until he’s older.

Although colour blindness means that you can’t join the Royal Navy, Army or the Royal Air Force you might be able to do some job roles. Working for the fire brigade may be a possibility if your colour blindness isn’t too severe. They will test your eyesight to see how bad it is and whether it is acceptable.

Armed with this knowledge I feel better prepared to make the journey smoother for him.  I just wish I’d checked earlier and hadn’t got so cross with him.  Bad mummy.



Key and explanation for the test

colourblind test keyThe image should be presented to a child in private. The child can be asked if they see any animals. There should be no prompting. The key for what can be seen with differing color vision can be seen to the left.

Past use of this test indicates the following:

Children with normal
vision can see the bear, deer, rabbit, and squirrel. They cannot see the
Children with a red-green color vision deficiency see a cow (instead of the deer), a fox (in the lower left), and usually the rabbit and squirrel. They cannot see the bear. Red-green colorblindness apparently occurs in varying degrees–mild to severe. Children with severe red-green color vision deficiency may have difficulty seeing the rabbit and/or squirrel. Generally, anyone with a
red-green color deficiency cannot see the bear, but can see the fox.

Children (and adults) with a red-green color deficiency have difficulty differentiating shades of the following colors from each other:    red from green,    green from brown (especially beige),    blue from purple, pink from gray. Note that most color deficient children can identify pure
primary colors.




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