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Faculty member helps make diagnostic children's book a reality

The cover of The Curious Eye, a diagnostic children's book used to screen for color blindness.

The cover of The Curious Eye, a diagnostic children's book used to screen for color blindness. (Image provided by the Children's Eye Foundation)

The pseudoisochromatic plates of an Ishihara Test are some of the more recognizable diagnostic equipment in an eye doctor’s office.

They are simple image slides, showing numbers made up of colorful dots that are hidden inside even more, differently colorful dots. If a patient can distinguish the numbers from the surroundings, it signals to ophthalmologists and optometrists that the person’s color vision is intact.

While the Ishihara Test has worked well for decades to diagnose adults with color vision deficiency, or color blindness, it has never been particularly kid friendly. This means a child’s colorblindness may be missed, or misdiagnosed.

To combat this issue, the Children's Eye Foundation of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus created a children’s book that can be used for color vision deficiency screenings.

Gavin Roberts, MD, an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at IU School of Medicine, served as the medical advisor for the project along with Rick Whitehead, MD, a former IU pediatric ophthalmology fellow.

The Curious Eye is the world’s first diagnostic tool of its kind. It uses the techniques of the Ishihara Test but makes them accessible to kids. Illustrated by Ruby Wang, the interactive story asks children to point out turtles, monkeys, dolphins and butterflies. If the child can’t decipher an image, it may be due to colorblindness.

The Curious Eye is available to download for free at the Children's Eye Foundation, making it widely available to clinicians and parents.

Here, Roberts answers questions about The Curious Eye.

Describe your role as medical advisor for this project? Why did you want to be involved?

My role was primarily to make sure that any information presented in the book was grounded in accurate medical science.

How common is it for children to be screened for color blindness? Why is it so commonly undiagnosed?

Unlike visual acuity testing, for example, it is not common for children to be screened for color vision deficiency unless a parent or caregiver specifically asks for the test.

What are some signs of color blindness parents, teachers or physicians should be aware of?

Many younger patients can have color vision deficiency and not necessarily come to anyone’s attention. On the other hand, some confusion or disinterest while learning colors can be normal in pre-school age children. Older children may have trouble distinguishing between shades of dark reds versus browns or greens in clothing or artwork.

Why would you encourage people to take advantage of The Curious Eye as a tool to help children?

Our goal was to make a fun and approachable book for children that is more interactive and engaging than traditional color plate testing. While it is not intended as anything other than a screening device, we think we have succeeded in that goal.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Caitlin VanOverberghe

Caitlin VanOverberghe is a communications coordinator for the Indiana University School of Medicine, where she supports the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and the Department of Ophthalmology. Having earned degrees in journalism and telecommunications ...