Rajesh K

How To Teach Colours To Children With ASD

Posted On: August 26th, 2014    Posted By: Rajesh K  To  Autism

Colour recognition is the ability to identify and name basic colours. Colour recognition is important in recognizing objects around us and it is a precursor to language in the context of naming and using adjectives. Recognizing colours or other general concepts like shapes, numbers, alphabets, etc. develops in a child in the order of sorting / matching, identifying, naming and generalizing, where, in the context of colour concepts,

Matching denotes the ability to match similar coloured objects
Identifying denotes the ability to identify a colour when it is named
Naming denotes the ability to name a colour when asked
Generalizing denotes the ability to understand the similarity of colours in varied objects


Initially, in teaching colour concepts, only one or two primary colours must be taught at all levels of matching, identification naming and generalization. To begin with teaching colour concepts, the child is given activities that involve matching. For example, collect objects of similar shape or size but different colours like yellow and red beads or yellow and red coins. Take two cups, one in yellow and one in red. To teach matching, the child is expected to drop the red coin in the red cup and the yellow coin in yellow cup. Encourage positive responses and correct the wrong attempts. Once the child masters this, include more colours like blue, green, black, white etc.

Generally, children tend to easily achieve this level of matching and parents would begin to proceed to next level- identification. But practically, the transition between matching and identification must be including another phase which involves matching of same colour with objects that are varied by size and shape. We, in our centre, took 15 children with varied cognitive abilities to teach colour concepts. Among them, 11 children could do matching of all primary colours efficiently but could not progress directly to identification.

After matching red and yellow coin in red and yellow cup respectively, the children (individually ) were instructed to pick red coin when named and drop in the red cup (this is identification). All of them were able to leave yellow coins and pick up red coin and drop in the red cup. But when red and yellow coins and red and yellow beads were mixed and presented, children were able to pick up red “coins” but not the red “beads” when instructed to pick up red. This implies that children paired the word “red” for only “red coins”. They could match colours for only those objects that are similar in shape or size. So, before moving to identification children must be trained to match colours of both similarly sized or shaped objects and differently sized or shaped objects.

Hence, the steps in matching would be:

1. From a group of red and yellow coins, match only red coins to the red cup
2. From a group of red and yellow coins and red and yellow beads match only red coins and red beads to the red cup
3. From a group of red and yellow coins, red and yellow beads, red and yellow balls, match only red coins, red beads, red balls to the red cup
4. Follow the above steps to all other colours

sorting and matching colours

sorting and matching colours




Once matching is achieved for all basic colours with varieties of objects, identification of colours can be taught. Here children will be presented with objects of varied colours and varied shapes/size and asked to identify the named colours.

Eg. 1. Present yellow bead and red ball and ask the child to pick up red
Eg. 2. Present red ball and yellow block and ask the child to pick up yellow.

Follow the same for all other colours. In identification, parents/teachers must name colours and child must be asked to repeat the naming during identification. This is the precursor of the next level – naming of colours. For example when the parent says “pick up red”, the child must say “red” when picking up red object. Here the child is learning to pair the name of the colour to the object.


In this level, the child must be asked to name the colour of the object for example when the parent says “what is the colour of the ball”, the child must say “red”. If this is not achieved, the child must again be taught identification.


This involves naming of colours that are fixed colours of objects. Example generalization involves the understanding that red is common for apple, tomato, pomegranate, blood, rose, etc. in this the child must be asked to list objects that are of red colour, yellow colour and so on.