7 Tips for Teachers with Color-Blind Students

colorblind students

Some kids are the class clowns. Some are shy. Some like to answer questions, and some fall asleep. But each child is unique in their own way.

Students with color-blindness have a unique trait that might make it difficult for them to learn like their classmates. Here are a few things to consider implementing to help them learn best.

What is Color-Blindness?

Color blindness is caused by problems in the color-detecting nerve cells located in the back of the eye. As a result, some people have trouble telling the difference between red and green (the most common kind of color blindness) and between blue and yellow.

How Can I Help a Color-Blind Child in the Classroom?

  1. Write in black on a dry-erase whiteboard or use white chalk when writing on the chalkboard to maximize contrast
  2. Use white paper for all handouts – even if it requires you to photocopy material from textbooks and other educational material
  3. Label coloring/writing utensils and arts and crafts materials (crayons, markers, colored pencils, pencils, sharpies, colored paper, etc.) with the name of the color
  4. Avoid color coding items like bar graphs or maps. If you do, write the color by the item.
  5. Work as a team – pair up students together or assist color-blind students on standardized tests
  6. Teach “sight colors” – teach color-blind students the colors of everyday common items (grass is green, bananas are yellow, etc. like you would teach “sight words”
  7. Educate all students on what color-blindness is and encourage kindness

How Can I Tell if a Child is Color-Blind?

A few common signs that a child is color-blind may include coloring objects in non-traditional colors, such as using an orange crayon to color a picture of an apple instead of a red crayon. They may also have trouble following color-coded directions. For example, they may struggle when you ask them to put on the green t-shirt or get out their blue folder. Similarly, they may have difficulty reading books or the whiteboard when the words are written in a specific color.  

If you notice these signs in one of your students, encourage their parent/guardian to have their vision tested by an optometrist. There are color-blind tests available online, but we recommend getting a professional diagnosis.

What Can Color-Blind Children See?

Most color-deficient individuals can identify pure, primary colors. However, it’s the different shades and tints that they can’t differentiate between. Color-deficient children may consider red, orange, yellow and green all names for the same hue. Children could also believe the same about the colors: violet, lavender, purple and blue.

Some of the most commonly confused color combos are pink/gray, orange/red, white/green, green/brown, blue green/gray, green/yellow, brown/maroon and beige/green. Pastels and muted tones are also difficult to correctly identify.

Want to Learn More?

Here are a few examples of what color-blind people can see compared to those with normal vision. Keep in mind, everyone sees color a little differently, even people who aren’t color blind.

While most people with color blindness are born with it, sometimes it doesn’t show up until later in life; surprisingly enough, about 1 in 12 men are color blind.

For more information about color blindness, visit the National Eye Institute.

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