Children And Synesthesia – 6 Tips for Caregivers
When it comes to synesthesia and children there are great opportunities for personal development and learning tasks. In this article, you will learn more about the possibilities of Children, synesthesia, and learning.
And you will get 6 valuable advice for parents how to approach children and synesthesia.
Synesthesia is associated with many cognitive benefits.
Children are very open to their perceptions and hence to synesthesia. They live naturally in the here and now, enchanted by the present. Exploring the world still with fewer sorrows, their mind is not yet a distraction from their present reality.
Julia Simner states that
“Synesthesia is associated with many cognitive benefits. Synesthetes can be more creative, have better perception, better memories and are gifted in many ways.”
Synesthesia is a positive attribute. Becoming aware of synesthesia in early years may be beneficial for the personal development of a child.
Learning as a factor in developing synesthesia
Newer hypothesis state that learning could be an important factor in developing synesthesia. Genetics play a role and the time after birth. But synesthesia may develop when a child is facing learning challenges, for example learning an abstract symbol like the letter “A”.
Assigning a color to it may help to deal with this task. Synesthetic experiences can be used as a coding method. The colors of letters encode information about things they learn, such as language and math.
The successful application of synesthetic learning may then establish as synesthetic associations.
Adult synesthetes state that the colors have always been like that, since “they can remember”. But this may not be the whole story. Synesthesia seems to develop slowly into late childhood.
There seems to be a window of at least 4 years during which these synesthetic associations are in flux. Synesthetic associations may develop slowly, 6-year-old synesthetes have less consistent letter-color associations than 10-year old. For some children, it takes more time than in their peers.
Synesthesia as mnemonic device enables learning, not only for children
Synesthetes as a group have many unusual cognitive, perceptual and personality traits. This includes a strong connection between creativity and artistic expression.
Studies report stronger verbal and vivid imagery, cognitive styles and enhanced visual imagery abilities. Furthermore, they tend to fantasize, own a greater openness to the experiences around them.
Synesthetic children can exploit synesthesia as a mnemonic device. Synesthetic experience can be powerful to encode or retrieve information while learning. For example when dealing with letters, numbers or other categorizations and concepts.
They do not seem to have a superior memory but apply alternative learning strategies.
“Synesthesia might provide an alternative way to master a skill, but not necessarily a superior way”.
Still, research about synesthesia and learning is in its infancy. It is safe to say that synesthetes benefit of being aware of synesthesia. We need more studies to understand the mechanisms of learning and synesthesia; and its opportunities.
Synesthesia in schools – opportunities for learning
Learning is more efficient when involving different sensory modalities. A very practical application of synesthetic experiences is learning involving letters and numbers. With colors, genders, and personalities, letters and numbers can be memorized.
Learning vocabulary with colored words may be easier
Let’s take the example of learning grammar or vocabulary with a new language. The colors of the letters encode the words and help to “store” this information. The color code also supports “remembering” the words. Synesthetic associations provide information about it.
Wrongly colored letters and numbers are detrimental
So, if a synesthetic child can use its own color code, it is a support for learning. But if a child is forced to deal with letters in “wrong” colors, it has a negative effect. It is like dealing with the word RED written in green. Sometimes this has a detrimental effect on the learning performance.
Exercise: Letters & Numbers
6 Tips how caregivers can support synesthetic children
Nowadays, there is not yet a lot of support for synesthetic children. This may be due to a lack of information for the teachers, and the absence of this topic during teacher education. Synesthetic families are on their own.
But things are developing. Here are some practical tips on what you can do as a parent to support your synesthetic child.
1 Become aware of your synesthetic abilities yourself.
Synesthesia may have genetic causes. If your child has synesthesia you may too. Try to understand your sensory world to comprehend the synesthetic abilities of your child. Create a synesthetic aware social environment and the space for your child to discover synesthesia.
2 Explore synesthetic experiences in daily life
Use the opportunity to explore synesthesia together. Take a moment with your child and perceive sounds or smells in color, discuss the colors of letters.
Ask your child during lunch, about the color of the food. Or ask what shape is the dog’s bark. Talking about synesthetic experiences helps to train the mind to perceive the world synesthetically.
Or if you like, do some of the exercises in the sensorium together. Maybe drawing music, synesthetic taste, and smell? Or a few minutes experiencing the colors of letters and numbers.
Encourage your child to perceive synesthetic experiences. It will become familiar with their synesthetic abilities and integrate it into their daily life.Smell & Taste Exercise
3 Read them a children’s’ book
Understanding synesthesia helps you and your child to familiarize with synesthesia in daily life. And it creates confidence to talk about it with others.
Read some of the synesthetic literature for children. There are a few around.
Check out these books: “When Birds sing Violet”, “The girl who heard colors”, “A Mango-shaped Space”.
4 “Educate the educators”
Be open to talking about synesthesia with your child’s’ educator. It seems that they are more open and progressive towards synesthesia as you may think.
Bring them a book about synesthesia or some pages from online. Especially these information sheets from syntoolkit.org are a good resource for every teacher.
Teachers may not be able to change their education style for the need of one synesthete. But it is important to explain to teachers what synesthesia is.
They should be aware of the effect on learning. To inform teachers and educators helps to create a supportive environment for your child.
5 Support them while learning
There are not yet learning tools for synesthetic children. But you can support your child by giving them hints in certain learning tasks. For example, your child likely needs to learn and recall historical dates.
Talk about the colored numbers of the date. Or if your child learns vocabulary for a different language, talk about the color code of the word. Studies have shown that synesthesia has learning advantages. Support your child in exploring the possibilities.
6 Talk with other families about it
Well, congratulations, you found out that your child is synesthetic, and maybe you too. Consider that there are many other relatives and families out there with synesthetic children.
Most likely they do not know about it and are not aware of it. Synesthesia is nothing special and quite common. So, talk with other mothers and fathers about it. Share it with others. You may open the doors to young beings in other families into an extrasensory space.
Conclusion for Synesthesia and Children
The research about synesthesia and learning is still in its infancy. Being an aware synesthete has a positive influence on the personal development of a child. And it may support learning performances.
There is not a lot of support for synesthetic children. Parents can support the development of the synesthetic awareness of their children. Talk about it, read about it, explore your senses together… and educate the educators!
What to do next?
Start your synesthetic journey in the Sensorium. You find over 150 exercises that support you and your child. It is an aid in discovering, training, applying and integrating synesthesia in your daily life. The Gateway is free. Take 10 minutes with your child and start exploring.
Resources from SynToolkit.com
SynToolKit.com is a website created by the University of Sussex to support parents and children. Read their information for parents and for the teachers.Download For Parents
Artwork by Fitri