Little Robot is 4 and recently had a vision screening, Little Robot’s sight was found to be below average. Hardly surprising considering that virtually everyone in the family wears glasses for some reason or another. We’ll be going back for another test in a few weeks and hopefully after that we’ll know what’s wrong and what we need to do. Yesterday though, I also told the orthopist that I’d suspected Little Robot was colour blind.
My brother is colour blind, my grandfather was colour blind, my mum is a carrier for it, there was always a chance I was too. I thought back to all the times I tried to teach Little Robot colours, how his older brother immediately got it but Little Robot struggled. I thought back to how he used to tell me his favourite colour was black and how he has a short attention span when it comes to colouring books. Only last weekend he was telling me the red traffic light was orange, the weekend before a dark green pen and a brown pen were both the same according to his eyes.
So she got out a book of coloured dotty circles with different coloured dotty numbers hidden in them, also known as Ishihara colour test plates. You’ve probably seen these things before. The first one, he saw the number straight away but apparently everyone can see that one. As he looked at each of the other test plates and told us there were no numbers in them, my heart sank a little more with each turn of the page.
I suppose I never paid much attention to colour blindness before, my brother has it and gets on OK. He drives, he works in IT, he used to tap on my bedroom door and ask me what type of resistor he was holding (he liked building electronic circuits but the components are colour coded). My grandad had it and worked as a TV repairman back in the days when TV’s were massive brick shaped objects. It was just one of those things in the background as I grew up.
Though now I know my son has it, I wonder how many times he’s been asked about colours at school and preschool. If he’s ever felt frustrated, confused or been told he’s wrong because his eyes don’t work the same as yours or mine. His favourite cuddly toy, which is bright pink to a non-colour blind person, is more like grey to him. I burst into tears when I thought of how our Christmas tree decorations must look to him, red and gold baubles on a green tree all looks pretty brown no matter how much glitter it has on it.
Desperate to understand how he sees the world, I downloaded some apps. Chromatic Vision Simulator is free and uses your devices camera to show you what the world looks like to a person with colour vision deficiency. As I wandered around the house, pointing my camera at all his favourite things, I couldn’t help but smile. I now understand why he loves superheroes so much. It’s more than just a little boy loving the drama of defeating bad guys and heroes saving the day. Superheroes, in their bright, contrasting colour costumes with lots of blue and yellow, are some of the brightest and most colourful things he can see.
Even Superman still looks pretty cool when you’re colour blind.