By Rebecca Long Pyper
If today meant another mismatched outfit for your son, donâ€™t yell at him yet.
More kids â€” especially boys â€” than you might expect have a hard time making that rainbow connection.
Â According to kidshealth.org, one of every 12 boys is probably at least slightly colorblind. Color blindness is more common in boys, and itâ€™s hereditary, passing through the motherâ€™s genes.
Â Color blindness is a manifestation of â€śhow the brain interprets things,â€ť said Dr. Jay Borgholthaus, an optometrist with Summit Eyecare. â€śGenetically itâ€™s made it so (the brain) doesnâ€™t interpret it the correct way.â€ť
Being colorblind doesnâ€™t mean life is lived in black and white. Instead, itâ€™s a sliding scale; those with worst-case color blindness might mix up almost every color, while those who have a mild case of color deficiency could have difficulty differentiating between shades closer to the same spectral color â€” think pinks, lavenders, and purples. For instance, Borgholthaus has two brothers with color deficiency where greens look brown.
Color blindness can pose practical challenges, but it doesnâ€™t have to be a major stumbling block for life. According to kidshealth.org, â€śBeing color blind can make it tricky to match your shirt and pants, but it’s not a serious problem. People who are colorblind can do normal stuff, even drive. Most color-blind people can’t tell the difference between red or green, but they can learn to respond to the way the traffic signal lights up â€” the red light is generally on top and green is on the bottom.â€ť
Â How to figure it out
If your child has color deficiency or blindness, usually there will be signs â€” â€ścertain colors just donâ€™t make sense,â€ť Borgholthaus said. That can manifest itself in mismatched outfits, using the wrong-color towel or pictures drawn with a purple sky and orange grass.
If you have a hunch your kid might be colorblind, a visit to the optometrist can resolve doubts. Doctors like Borgholthaus test using Ishihara Plates, made up of a circle full of small colored dots, plus a number printed in different-colored dots in the center. People who see the full spectrum of color will recognize the number right away, while those with color blindness or deficiency will not. A quick online search will turn up samples of Ishihara plates if youâ€™d like to check things out at home.
One reason to have an optometrist diagnose your child is that seeing colors differently â€” say, one eye sees red more vibrantly than the other â€” can be a symptom of other, more concerning health conditions, Borgholthaus said.
Also, knowing your child has a color deficiency can lead to more empathy. â€śIt just helps for the parentsâ€™ understanding, so they can understand that, no, (their kids) donâ€™t see very well,â€ť Borgholthaus said. And maybe thatâ€™s the reason for all those clashing clothes.