Supporting children with colour vision deficiency
When it comes to supporting the learning of children with colour vision deficiency, Ms Honson says there should be a greater awareness and understanding of the red-green congenital colour deficiencies - mostly that those affected are not truly ‘colour blind’ and can see some colours.
“Labelling charts or using redundancy in graphs may help, labelling boxes rather than relying on colours to distinguish differences, asking children to let the teacher know if they have any difficulty in understanding any tasks where colour is used to differentiate points, and even using contrast differences rather than relying on colour alone,” Ms Honson says.
Examples can include:
- avoiding red writing on a dark background
- using graphs with horizontal and vertical stripes as well as colour
- Make sure that the maths program or any other computer aided learning program does not involve a lot of colour interpretation.
The ongoing issues for a child who is colour deficient will vary from child to child.
Ms Honson says because most children don’t want to appear different from their peers (and to avoid being teased) they may try to hide their condition.
“If they’re not aware of their condition, they may feel confused with their ability to learn and it may affect their self-esteem. It’s always best that all children have a full eye examination at an early age - both preschool age, and again in the early primary years.
“In this way, any congenital eye condition (including colour deficiencies) may be detected as early as possible and parents and teachers can then be informed. Whilst the type and severity of the colour deficiency may need to be confirmed at an older age, at least the early detection will help parents and teachers change some approaches to teaching.”
“I recommend that parents do not discourage children when they are young with any vocation, as this may change when they are older. It’s okay to say to the child that they do see colours differently from others.”
Daily living and ongoing issues may present in the way of clothing choices, choosing certain foods or knowing when food such as meat is fully cooked.
“As a society, we increase the level of difficulty by using colour more and more to distinguish features, for example, when an instrument is charged (changing from orange to green), when car spaces are vacant (red and green again), maps and signs, colour graded images (weather maps are a good example but in imaging technology colour grading is increasingly used to present different regions of information). This will impact on the time necessary for the colour deficient individuals when carrying out their job,” Ms Honson says.
The case for vision testing programs
While each state in Australia has a vision testing program for primary school children, colour vision is not tested. But people can take their child to an optometrist for a test and there are online tests you can do at home.
“It would be lovely to also create a program where we could go out to schools and discuss this issue with teachers and children - I feel it would be of great benefit to all involved, not just children with colour deficiencies,” Ms Honson says.
“It may reduce the amount of teasing, and children with colour deficiencies may grow in their self-esteem."