Child Synesthetes

We typically interview adult synesthetes. However, you don’t have to be an adult to have synesthesia. In fact, most adult synesthetes began having synesthetic experiences at a young age. Julia Simner and her colleagues estimate that in the United States there are over 930,000 child synesthetes age 0-17. That averages to around 5 children per primary school (Simner et al. 2009).How can we determine whether or not the children in our lives have synesthesia? Synesthesia in adults is often measured by testing the consistency of cross-modal perceptions over a long period of time. Researchers must track the experiences of individuals to determine if their synesthesia is genuine. Basically, each synesthetic experience has a specific triggering stimulus and a specific resulting experience. If an adult has a form of synesthesia, certain stimuli will consistently trigger the same experience. For example, a grapheme-color synesthete might always see green 7s. If you think that a child you know has synesthesia, you can start tracking their experiences in a similar way. If the child consistently responds to a specific stimulus with a specific resulting synesthetic experience, it’s possible that she is a synesthete. Also, there are several studies that suggest a genetic mode of inheritance of synesthesia. So, if you’re a synesthete it’s possible that your children are synesthetes too. Several adult synesthetes report that when they were children they did not realize that something was different about the way that they experienced the world. A child grapheme-color synesthete might think that everyone sees red 5s. When a child recognizes that they are unusual, they may be hesitant to discuss their experiences because they do not want to risk being accused of lying or being negatively labeled by their peers. There are several reported cases of adults losing their synesthesia as they age. It’s important to nurture a child’s synesthetic ability.(Julia Simner, Jenny Harrold, Harriet Creed, Louise Monro and Louise Foulkes. (2009). “Early detection of markers for synaesthesia in childhood populations.” Brain: A Journal of Neurology. 132;...

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