What Color Is It?
Ask some kids who have Agenesis of the
Corpus Callosum what color it is and they will
know. However, some kids who have ACC have a
difficult time learning colors.
Many kids who have ACC have difficulty with
C O L O R S are abstract.
My own child, Matthew, who has complete ACC
doesn't know his colors yet. He is 16 years
old and beyond the typical age that a child
would know their colors.
He knows the word for an object but trying
to help him understand that the object has a
color is something I find challenging and
I am not alone.
Recently, the topic of Learning Colors was
brought up in an online discussion by the
parent of a child who has ACC. The discussion
led to many interesting responses from other
parents who also have a child with ACC.
I thought the tips, advice and teaching strategies
would be worth sharing here.
Thanks to all the parents who gave their input
in the discussion and also their permission to
quote them, I am able to share it with you.
Question that started the discussion:
Parent of 6 year old child who has ACC writes:
"My son, David 6 years old, haven't understood
the different colors yet. Is this common for ACC-kids?
And does anybody know why this is a difficult thing
Hope you understood my english..."
Parent of 11 year old who has ACC responds:
"It is typical with ACC kids. At least once a year
someone asks that same question. Colors are actually an
abstract concept, which is why they are harder to learn.
It took us a LOT of repetition to learn them and Jacob
still gets white and yellow mixed up even though he is in
regular classes at school. When Jacob was young we got
together with the his teacher and came up with a chart
of color names and pictures that he picked out that were
more concrete. When we would ask what color something
was he would say something like "the color of
strawberries, red. or the color like the clouds, white."
Find something more concrete to name and then associate
it with the color name. It is even better if you let
him choose the object names.
I hope I explained this ok :). Many ACC kids learned
their colors in this fashion. Do not be surprised if it
takes several months or a year. It should come.
ACC kids just take longer."
The color of a
"Find something more concrete to name and then
associate it with the color name. It is even
better if you let him choose the object names."
In the next response by a teacher who is also the
parent of a grown child who has partial ACC,
some important considerations were brought up:
- Can the child really see colors?
- Has the child been evaluated for color blindness?
- Is the child able to match colors?
- Is the child able to sort things by their colors?
Teacher/Parent of a grown child with partial ACC +
lobar holoprosencephaly responds:
"Your English is lovely. I wish I knew another language
as well as you know ours!
Lots of kids have this trouble. First of all, can
David really see colors? Has he been evaluated for
color blindness of any kind? Is he able to match colors,
or sort things by their color? If he can do that,
he is ready to go on. Sometimes a child can learn
to respond to the name of a color more easily than
he can actually name it himself. You might start
out saying the names and having him choose the right
one. If he can read already, you might give him a
chart with the colors and their names, and allow him
to use it for matching.
My friend teaches preschool, and she has her kids use
familiar objects to help her students. She made a chart
with pictures and they say "yellow like a banana" and
"green like the grass" (you need a picture, because the
grass isn't green in the winter!) and so on. You might
want to work on only a few, maybe three, colors at a time
YELLOW like a
GREEN like the
This same Teacher/Parent goes on to say:
"This is how my daughter learned her colors. She loved
to paint, and we had pots of paint for each color, with a
different brush for each one.
No-spill paint cups
color-coordinated brushes sold separately
Amazon no-spill paint pots & brushes set
I let her only have one at a time, and I did not
let her point to the one she wanted--she had to
say the word. At first she would be frustrated that
she was not getting the color she wanted. She'd say,
"No! I want the OTHER blue!" But she loved to paint
so much that she eventually figured it out. You might
find something like this that David is very motivated
to play with that works the same way for him."
Motivation is a huge factor in helping a child
learn something. Equally important is finding
what learning style works for a child.
My own child, Matthew, is nonverbal with only a
handful of words. He is a visual + auditory learner.
He is also developmentally delayed.
He is able to express what he knows and understands
best through the use of a computer or an augmentative
communication device. This allows him the ability
to see and hear something over and over that he is
working on learning and gives him freedom to use
as much repetition as he needs.
Matthew needs to see a picture, push a button
and hear the word. He uses a Dynavox V
communication device. Below is a colors page I
made on his communication device to help him
When he pushes the RED button, it SAYS "Red".
The screen then automatically changes to another
page with pictures of things that are RED.
I can add more pictures, change the pictures
to different red things, use less pictures, put
in real photographs of red things, type any
message I want the button to say when pushed and
so much more.
Even though at 16 years old, my son, Matthew,
is nonverbal (with only a handful of words) I
still encourage and help him to make a sound and
try to SAY words whenever possible.
Matthew is not able to match or sort using a
typical method. If I hand him an object and ask
him to match it to the right color he does not
However, I discovered that he IS able to match
and sort using other methods that fit his learning
style and abilities.
The matching method Matthew uses to express his
ability to match is through the use of books by
Roger Priddy. The books have a large, color picture
of an object on one side of the page and a talking
button with the matching picture on the other side.
When he pushes the matching picture button, he hears
the word being said outloud.
I wrote an earlier ACC blog post titled
Matching & Motivation where I explain Matthew's
matching and sorting abilities and methods in more detail.
"Let's say our colors" is a new book that I will be
using for Matthew to help him learn to match colors.
Amazon-Let's say our colors book
Parent of 7 year old child with ACC and autism
"I agree with (names the parent),,,this topic has
come up several times before and it seems to be an
issue with alot of our kids. However, to add a twist
to this topic,,,,Michael could identify his colors,,,
( as well as shapes,letters and numbers) by about the
time he was 2 years old. He does not speak,,so he
points to identify,,but he definitely took an interest
in these areas and learned them without a doubt very
early on. Cognitively, Michael is at about a 2 or 3
year old level. I don't understand how/why Michael
could learn his colors so much more quickly than
some of the older, higher functioning kids.?
I'm thinking it comes down to rote memorization,,,
that the abstractness of it all doesn't affect
Michael...? Michael has been diagnosed as being
mildly autistic,,,,so does this somehow enter the
picture as well ??? I don't know ??"
Parent of 21 year old child with ACC + chromosome
microdeletion 1q44 responds:
"I agree with everything that has been said about
learning colors. When my daughter Becky was very
young,she could match colors or hand you
"the yellow bears" or "the red cup" when asked.
But to this day, if you ask her what color something
is, she says, "blue." I think it's a word-retrieval
issue with Becky, and it may be that with other kids
who have ACC. She seems to have a pathway in her brain
that says "the answer to 'what color is it' is BLUE."
It is the first thing that pops into her head so she
says it. After that she'll start saying other color
names, but she doesn't consistently get them right --
even though we know she has known them for years
(On a side note, I always think I could impress
people by asking some abstract question to Becky,
like, "Becky, what color is the sky after a storm
passes by," or "Becky, what color is the background
of the stars in the American Flag." She would
definitely say, "blue." She will always answer
"blue" as long as the question has "what color"
in it. If you asked Becky what color Santa's suit
was she'd still say blue, or what color grass is,
or the sun...)
Colors really are an abstract concept so I would
first see if your child can match or point to colors.
If he has that correct, then you will know that
naming the colors is the problem, not understanding
them. Repetition, repetition, and repetition are the
key to learning the verbal part. I really like
(names the parent) idea about the paint pots, since
her daughter was so highly motivated to get them right.
If there is motivation + repetition, the learning
should come quicker. I also think that adding a cue
like "blue like the sky, green like the grass" is a
huge help because it gives an extra "signpost" on
the brain-pathway to getting the color right."
BLUE like the
"She seems to have a pathway in her brain that says the
answer to 'what color is it' is BLUE."
"Colors really are an abstract concept so I
would first see if your child can match or point
to colors. If he has that correct, then you will
know that naming the colors is the problem, not
"If there is motivation + repetition, the learning
should come quicker."
"I also think that adding a cue like "blue like the sky,
green like the grass" is a huge help because it gives an
extra "signpost" on the brain-pathway to getting the
Parent of 4 year old child with partial ACC writes:
"I was having the same issues with my son Steve. I
even thought he may be color blind. Anytime someone
asked him what color something was he always answered
"RED". Now, after months of working really hard on
colors, he is starting to be able to understand them.
He still does not always have the right word, but he
can match colors accurately. We ended up starting with
a lot of matching and sorting games. I would put out
3 different colored buckets, and have objects that
were those colors. Steve would then sort the objects
into the right color bucket. After a few weeks, he
could do this, so then we moved on to matching: I
took different colored objects and I would hold up
a red piece of paper and have him grab the red object.
With everything, I am finding persistence and patience
are the best tools to have."
"We ended up starting with a lot of matching
and sorting games. I would put out 3 different
colored buckets, and have objects that were those
colors. Steve would then sort the objects into
the right color bucket."
Word Retrieval Issue...?
"When my daughter Becky was very young,
she could match colors or hand you
"the yellow bears" or "the red cup" when
asked. But to this day, if you ask her what
color something is, she says, "blue."
I think it's a word-retrieval issue with
Becky, and it may be that with other kids
who have ACC."
"Anytime someone asked him what color
something was he always answered "RED". Now,
after months of working really hard on colors,
he is starting to be able to understand them.
He still does not always have the right word,
but he can match colors accurately."
"She could point to the correct color
but couldn't tell me the color."
"With everything, I am finding persistence and patience
are the best tools to have."
Parent of 13 year old child with ACC writes:
"Yes there seems to be a problem with colors.
My son Jacob took 2 years to learn colors. I had
every book, story, game or toy that teaches colors.
I knew he was not color blind because he could sort
the little colored teddy bears in the little colored
baskets. We tried every method and game to learn
colors and then one day when he was 4 or 5 he knew
his colors and never made a mistake again.
My theory on this is that it may be due to a visual
processing problem or delay. He does have a visual
processing delay. As with many ACC related issues
repetition is the key and "eureka" one day they
have it ! The brain is amazing."
Parent of 5 year old with ACC + colpocephaly,
chiari 1, sensory integration disorder, strabismus
and hydrocephalus responds:
"It definitely seems common for ACC kids to have
trouble with colors. Lisa had the same problem. She
could point to the correct color but couldn't tell me
the color. We used lots of repetition with Lisa, of
course we use lots of repetition in just about anything
with Lisa but once she has it, she usually doesn't forget
it. Lisa has a very big sweet tooth, so we used M&M's,
skittles, Reeces pieces, blocks, crayons, pointed to
stuff when we were out and about. I would say look at
the red stop sign, the yellow shirt. With the candy,
I would show her the colors, tell her and have her
repeat it. Then when I would show her one if she got
the color correct, she would get to eat it. I always
said the color to an object to help her as well. Lisa
has always ordered her blocks/ toys by color and shape.
I would always comment on her color scheme, i.e. I love
how you put the reds first, then the yellows, and blues.
She does have her colors now but it did take lots of
practices and impromptu lessons. Make everyday a learning
time with whatever you are working on at the time.
Also, if he is working on another specific skill right
now, he may have trouble with learning colors. Lisa can
only work on one skill at a time and the others are on
TIP: Parent of child with ACC & hydrocephalus in 2003 wrote:
"Concerning colors, add the color of whatever
you are doing, seeing, to the conversation -
today do you want to wear your red or green shirt?
Let's make salad - we'll use orange carrots,
"Lisa has a very big sweet tooth, so we used M&M's,...
I would show her the colors,
and have her repeat it.
Then when I would show her one
if she got the color correct,
she would get to eat it."
"As with many ACC related issues repetition is the
key and "eureka" one day they have it!
The brain is amazing."
And yellow too
Rainbow shining over head.
Hopefully you will gain insight, discover a
teaching strategy to try or possibly be inspired to
explore other creative ways to help your child who
has ACC learn colors.
GREEN light means GO!
It's time for me to go now. I can't wait
to help my child, Matthew, learn his colors.
The discussion doesn't have to end here.
Won't you go ahead and add your own comment?
If you would like to have a copy of this document
click on the link below for instant availability
ACC Learning Colors - printable version
Note: Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum is a congenital defect.
A child who has ACC (or a corpus callosum disorder) is born with it. Agenesis = missing or absent. Therefore, a child who has ACC is completely missing their corpus callosum. The corpus callosum is the largest commissural pathway in the brain consisting of over 200 million nerve fibers and allows for communication between the two hemispheres of the brain. Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum has a very broad range of how it can affect a person.
A very special Thank You to each one of you who gave permission for me to quote you and for your willingness to share information in this document about your child who has ACC.
For privacy the names of all kids in this
article, except my own child, have been changed.
I do not endorse or receive any compensation from the
companies mentioned in the product links on this "Learning Colors"
document. I found the products through my own personal search while
creating this document and I decided to share them here for those
of you who might have an interest.