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Color blindness: help me understand?

Jul 21, 2011 - 9 comments

Color Blindness



I took Trevor for his first eye exam two days ago, and they gave him a color blindness test with the types of color plates as seen in the attached photo. During this eye exam, it was determined that he is farsighted and also has some sort of focusing ability issue, so he has been scheduled to start vision therapy next week. I'm sure to find out more after that first appointment, as right now I can't say that I know much of what's going on with his eyes other than being farsighted.
However, for the color blindness test, which was given to him twice--once before eye dilation and then again after dilation--he failed it the first time but did slightly better after his eyes were dilated. After the first test, the doctor said he was color blind with red and green colors because he could not make out, for example, the number of 6 and 8 in the attached picture (the bottom two circles). He failed to see the numbers, shapes, or lines in five different similarly colored plates during this test. Yet after his eyes were dilated an hour later, he was able to make out some of the numbers, so then the doctor said he wasn't sure...which is why, among other issues, he's referred Trevor to vision therapy, and then doing a re-evaluation of the eye exam in four months with a pediatric opthamologist scheduled to work with him.
I'm having a hard time believing he's color blind. He knows his colors and can pick out whatever color you ask him to from a box of jumbled up crayons or markers. He colors pictures in "rainbows" because he likes all the combinations. Basically, I NEVER in my wildest thoughts and concerns about him would have wondered, is he color blind?
I was wearing a solid light forest green t-shirt yesterday, so I asked him what color my shirt was. He said it was green. I held up a red snack bag of Apple Straws and asked what color the bag was and he said, "It's red." Then I took a real apple that was mostly red and held it so he could see it from the top at the stem, where it had greenish-yellow streaks around the core and stem and asked him what colors he saw. He looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Green and red. Why are you asking me what colors I see?" (the doctor and I hadn't told him he was color blind, and he also wouldn't even know what that meant if we did tell him, hence his confusion).
This morning, I pulled out a "Clifford the Big Red Dog" book and had him look at the cover because there was a leaf pile pictured with the colors red, brown, orange and yellow all mixed together. I showed him the book cover and asked what color leaves were in that pile. He said they're red, brown, orange and yellow almost immediately.

So if he IS color blind, then is it possible for it to not be very severe? I looked it up yesterday and color blindness doesn't seem to have much of a spectrum of severity--either a person is or is not. I'm thinking maybe he just has a problem distinguishing between contrast and saturation of colors, maybe? I mean, when I look at the color plates in the attached picture, it's even a bit difficult for me to find the numbers in the bottom two plates. But I don't think he failed to see the numbers because he couldn't see the colors.
Just wondering if there's anyone out there who is color blind, or who knows more than I do about this, and could give me a little more information.

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127124 tn?1326739035
by have 2 kids, Jul 21, 2011
I have never been told I am colorblind but I do have trouble distinguishing between navy and black.  Also, I can't see anything in the last two cirles you have posted.   I can see different colors.  

Sorry- I know my response doesn't help at all.

127124 tn?1326739035
by have 2 kids, Jul 21, 2011
Actually I can only see numbers in two of the boxes and one of them is very hard for me to tell what the number actually is.

184674 tn?1360864093
by AHP84, Jul 21, 2011
Trying to see the numbers on a computer screen is actually a bit more difficult than having them printed on paper, I will admit--but I wanted to find the closest examples of the colors on the plates he saw on Tuesday.
He could easily find the numbers on the higher contrasted plates, like the first plate with the number 25 and the fourth with the number 56. But like you, I do believe he could see the colors on the plates, he just couldn't distinguish the design within it because the contrast was too light.

1527830 tn?1329412166
by ttcbaby3, Jul 21, 2011
My husband is red/green color blind.  He can distinguish red and green but it is when it comes to different shades of the colors he has a hard time with figuring out what the color is.

I went with him once to get his eyes checked and they were giving him a color blind test (just like the one you have posted) and I stood behind him while he was doing it and I saw the numbers clearly and he would say a completely different number.  We knew he was color blind at the time already (was diagnosed when he was in kindergarten) so I thought he was just messing around with the eye doctor by saying some off the wall number.  I started laughing and he didn't understand why I was laughing.  The eye doctor then explained to me that when you are color blind you actually do see a totally different number and that is how they figure out what colors you have problems with based on the number you said.  It was really interesting.

They did this to him when his eyes were not dilated and also when they were.  He failed both times.

I would think your son probably does have a focusing problem since when they dilated his eyes he didn't fail the test.  My husband had to fail both times to be told he was color blind.

I wouldn't worry too much until he does the vision therapy and then have him re-take the color blindness test.

When it comes to severity of color blindness, you can be severly color blind (those are the ones that cannot distinguish colors at all and dress themselves all weird!) and then you can be slightly.  My husband is slightly red/green color blind.  You can also train your eyes to distinguish the colors which he is doing and it is starting to work.  He still just has a hard time telling me green from gray and red from brown.

Hope this helped a little.  Let me know if you have any other questions!

184674 tn?1360864093
by AHP84, Jul 21, 2011
That helps a lot! Thank you, ttcbaby3!
I was really hoping someone with experience with color blind people or a color blind person themselves would find this journal and answer. Mainly, I was wondering if there was a severity level. The little bit of online research I've done hasn't given me much information to know if there can be severity levels, or if it's just something that you either have or you don't and there's no degree of severity involved.
When he took the test before the dilation, he failed it completely--got all the light-colored red/green plates wrong. After the dilation, he only did a little bit better, but he still didn't get all of them correct. I think he started without dilation only getting a total of 5/13 correct of all the plates, and after dilation, it was like 8/13--so not too much of a difference.
I know he'll get a much more thorough evaluation and assessment when he goes to vision therapy next week, so I'm really looking forward to having better answers.

171768 tn?1324233699
by tiredbuthappy, Jul 21, 2011
I am assuming that there are different causes for color blindness.
My story is long, and the cause is entirely different than his, but it may give you insight into how the eye works when it comes to color blindness.

I had damage to my right optic nerve due to a brain tumor pressing on it. When my symptoms were bad (before diagnosis), in addition to some visual field deficits, I lost the ability to see those same numbers as your son in the test. The pressure from the tumor damaged the optic nerve. Apparently, other sources of damage to the optic nerve can yield similar results (i was reading up on preemies and eye damage because of one of my students and learned that when preemies are given oxygen, there can be damage to the eye that my result in color blindness). However, I definitely could tell what red and green was. But, if I compared reds and greens between my good and bad eye, the reds seemed more orange in the bad eye, and the greens more yellow. Overall the colors were duller, but still recognizable as red and green. Interestingly, when my eye improved, the color shift returned to almost normal.

I am assuming they tested both of his eyes separately. If you think about how many structures and processes are involved in simply seeing things, it is no wonder that vision problems, including seeing colors, is common. It''s great that this was caught early on so that he can get the therapies that may help him.

184674 tn?1360864093
by AHP84, Jul 21, 2011
It's definitely a blessing that his vision issues are being recognized this early. I think it's very possible that all the concerns I was having about him potentially having dyslexia are due to whatever is going on with his eyes. I was about ready to pull my hair out in frustration, knowing something about his learning ability has been "off" for the last year. He is at grade level (he starts first grade in two weeks), but it just seems like it's been much more of a struggle to get him there and maintain his ability to stay at grade level and progress further than it should be. He lacks memory retention when he tries to read on his own and gets things backwards alot in his reading and writing, from seeing and writing mirror images to transpositions of letters in words such as "left" and "felt."
I am really interested to see what we learn from the vision therapy.

Also, glad to hear your brain surgery and recovery have gone so well, tiredbuthappy! :-)

506791 tn?1439846583
by Piparskeggr, Jul 28, 2011

I tested as blue-green color vision "deficient" when I was 18.

I can see a 25 in the upper left and I think it's a 56 at center right, otherwise, I see no numbers.

I confuse shades that are close very readily, bought a pair of what I thought were gold "yoga" pants, which are neon green, my favorite brown "bush hat" is actually olive green, my nice pearl grey dress shirt is hot pink ,-)  and so on...

I can see all the colors quite well, if they aren't too close and there is good contrast.  I see them better while wearing blue-blocker sunglasses, which lead my eye doctor to think that I have too many blue receptors in my retina.

54 years of this, and I get along just fine.  When we buy things for the house, Anita and I always go together.  I have a much better fashion sense that she (her words) but her color detection is perfect.  We make a good pair.

Hope Trevor is doing better with the other health issues, and it sounds like his ability with colors is just fine.

184674 tn?1360864093
by AHP84, Jul 29, 2011
Well, here's the update from his vision therapy assessment yesterday:
His report from the eye doctor says he is red/green color deficient, but the vision therapist didn't test him further because they didn't have the color plates or any other color blindess tests available at their clinic. So for now, I guess we'll just go by the doctor's diagnosis, which isn't such a tragedy--I was just wanting to understand it better, so thank you to all who contributed.
As for his vision abilities that were determined by the therapy session--now that's not the greatest news. Apparently, he's on the verge of disability.
He has almost no tracking ability (doesn't move his eyes effectively to focus on things back and forth or up and down); he's in the 5th percentile in his ability to do that. Whenever he had to track something, he'd move his head, not his eyes.
He severely lacks the ability to focus from far to near. Glasses may aid that somewhat, but the actual vision isn't the issue as much as it is the ability to keep things in focus. In this area, he's in the 4th percentile.
As he ages, these percentiles go down drastically by the year if he has no therapy. The therapist said that if this was unnoticed and untreated by the time he was in second grade, maybe third if he was lucky, he'd definitely have visual disabilities. He's at a critical point to have caught this right now.
He also does not recognize letters and numbers that are backwards more than 80% of the time, and he writes letters and numbers backwards far more often than he should for his age. We have yet to determine if this is in fact dyslexia or just a physical problem with his eyes. More therapy sessions should reveal that soon.
The therapist wants to get him into Occupational Therapy to train his writing ability because his handwriting is "sketchy" and too light--he does not use enough pressure to write well with a pencil, so his marks are sometimes hard to read because they are so light. This issue conflicts with the fact that for nearly everything else he does, it's as if he craves hard contact and doesn't realize many times when he should be more gentle with his contact--for example, he hugs and kisses extremely hard to the point it's often painful to the one receiving them, or just annoying. I could name off a hundred other examples but it would take too much time. In short, though, he may have some sensory integration dysfunction issues as well.
One of the first notes she made of Trevor was that he is "VERY impulsive." She said this could be due to unconcious frustrations due to his vision problems of which he is not yet aware, and his impulses are his way of "acting out," or it could be ADHD. Again, further therapy sessions will determine what's going on and what route we need to take for his recovery.
The bad news is, my insurance doesn't cover ANY of the vision therapy, and it ain't gonna be cheap. Ugh. If he gets OT, my insurance MAY cover 80% of it, but only if it's in the calendar year, whatever that means, and if the type of OT is used for his hands (which the vision therapist is going to try to work in my favor with his handwriting issues and then try to get other therapies attached to it). If he has dyslexia, I don't know if my insurance will cover any programs for it. For now, I'm just trying to swallow the fact that he'll need 18 weeks of 36 sessions of therapy at $70 per session. I'm going to try to apply for a healthcare credit card and see what kind of arrangements I can make, but I do know I'll do whatever it takes to give my boy any advantage or benefit he needs to work through this.

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