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Kids Health QA: Color-Blind Tests for Kids

Q. When my 3-year-old daughter went for a pre-school evaluation, the teacher told us she's color-blind. I think it's just because she doesn't know her colors yet. Should she? And how can I find out if she is color-blind?

A: Some 3-year-olds know their colors (my youngest, Liam, is nearly 3 and loves to point out things that are blue and yellow, his favorites), and some don't. But you don't need to know your colors to be tested for color blindness.

Color blindness is genetic, thought to affect around 8 percent of males and 1 percent of females. Trouble seeing red and green is the most common form of the condition. Preschoolers should be checked for it with a simple test: The child is shown a square or circle made up of lots of dots, and within those dots is a number or shape made of different-color dots—for example, a square of red dots in a field of green dots (pictured above). If she can't see red, she won't see the square.

Even if your daughter does have trouble seeing colors, she'll likely live a perfectly normal life but may have difficulty distinguishing a red light from a yellow light, for example. (It's also helpful for teachers to know whether a student is color-blind, as textbooks and worksheets sometimes use colors to highlight words.)

I suggest giving her doctor a call to discuss taking the test in his office or to find out if your child should see a pediatric ophthalmologist.