09/15/2014 12:33 pm ET Updated Nov 15, 2014

The Disorder You Probably Haven't Considered

My son Lindell was 4 years old and still couldn't name a letter in the alphabet when we pointed to it.

"Lindell, what letter is this?" I'd ask, pointing to the largest, clearest A on the page.

Lindell would look at the letter, groan and then roll around on the ground.

He had a similar reaction one day when I took him shopping, only this time, it was over colors.

"Lindell, do you want the red shirt or the blue one?"

Lindell hid behind a rack of clothes in the department store.

My husband and I speculated it was a behavior problem. Does he have ADHD?, we wondered. It seemed that Lindell could never sit still long enough to learn letters, numbers or colors. And the teachers at school commented on his reluctance to follow some instructions -- ones like, "Go to the green table, Lindell."

And then one night, while I was reading Go Dog, Go to Lindell, he pointed at the book and asked, "What is the orange dog doing?"

There was no orange dog on the page.

My son is color blind.

I took Lindell to the eye doctor soon after for confirmation. He can't see blues, greens and sometimes reds. Blues are pink. Greens are blue and often orange-ish. Reds look brown.

Right away, I told his teachers and they developed new ways to help him understand. Now, Lindell has a numbered table, not a colored one.

But Lindell still refused to learn his letters. When I pointed to an A or a B, he'd still fall on the ground and misbehave.

So one day I asked him, "Why won't you tell me what this letter is?"

And Lindell said, "Because every time I tell you guys something is green, you say 'no, it's blue.' And when I tell you something is blue, you say, 'no, it's green.' If I tell you what that letter is, you'll just say it's something else."

The world can be a confusing place for someone who sees colors differently than the majority sees them. It's hard to trust your knowledge when everyone says you're wrong about something as simple as a red car or a blue bike. When you've always been wrong about colors, I guess you start to question everything else you know, too.

Diagnosing Lindell with color blindness has helped. So has talking to his teachers. Slowly, Lindell, now 7, is regaining confidence that his version of reality does match ours, if not exactly by shade. Green or blue, an A is still an A.

And, thankfully, Lindell now spends less time groaning and rolling on the floor.

Sarah Smiley often blogs about Lindell and his older brothers, Ford and Owen, at