Academic journal article The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation

Concepts of Colours in Children with Congenital Blindness

Academic journal article The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation

Concepts of Colours in Children with Congenital Blindness

Article excerpt

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Faculty of Philosophy,

University Ss. Cyril and Methodius Skopje, Macedonia

Recived: 03.12.2014

Accepted: 30.12.2014

Original Article

Corresponding address:


Faculty of Philosophy, blvd. Goce Delcev 9A,

1000 Skopje, R Macedonia



This descriptive qualitative interview study investigates knowledge of colours in students who are congenitally blind. The purpose of this research was to explore how the lack of direct experience with colour, as a result of congenital blindness, affects judgments about semantic concepts. Qualitative methods were used to conduct interviews with 15 students. The results of the study indicate that students know the colours and have a favourite colour. The implications for practice are to pay more attention when we teach students with congenital blindness to associate colours with specific objects.

Keywords: colour, child, visually oriented verbalism


In modern cognitive neuroscience and psychology, there is a spectrum of disparate views on the relationship of sensory experience and concepts. The concepts of congenitally blind individuals are supposed to be fundamentally different from the concepts of the sighted (1). In the last 25 years, many authors have dedicated themselves to trying to understand the mechanisms underlying the processes of evoking or generating images not directly observed and for which there are no retinal representations: "seeing with the mind's eye" (2).

Among modern cognitive scientists, there is an agreement that vision and development of cognition are intertwined. Studies show that 8090 percent of incidental learning is accomplished through sight. A child with blindness is deprived of the visual sensory information, because of that fact; his/her cognitive development can be expected be delayed. This delay could be expected, and more importantly, understood (3). But, nativist studies claim that the lack of vision will not significantly affect the process of language acquisition. Blind children, whose observational opportunities are limited, compared to the normal case, acquire word meanings (even the meanings of color words and verbs of perception) at about the same rate as sighted children (4).

In 1985 Landau and Gleitman published their influential work on the relationship between language and experience from the perspective of language development in a congenitally blind girl called Kelli. They observed her uses of the verbs look and see from a very young age. Kelly was able to acquire impressive knowledge about color terms, including the constraints governing their correct application to concrete nouns, without overextending them to abstract or event nouns. She also properly used other vision-related words, like the verbs look and see, though her meaning of look seemed to apply to haptic explorations. A part from some delay in the onset of speech, Kelli showed normal language development, with her lexicon and grammar being virtually undistinguishable from the ones of sighted children by the age of three. The common interpretation of these data is that congenitally blind people possess substantial knowledge about the visual world derived through haptic, auditory and linguistic input (4). Visualization without previous experience, as is the case for congenitally blind, would indicate the existence of visual imagery independent of visual perception (2).

People who are blind often use words that have a visual meaning (such as "The countryside is looking really green") that they may have difficulty defining, and it is interesting to observe the usage and meaning that such words of a visual nature can have for them (5). But, in terms of perception, blind look (haptic contact) and sight differ from their hold, touch, etc. …

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