Prof Julia Simner, Sussex University
Tasty-coloured sounds: Synaesthesia, Autism, and Sensory Sensitivities in Children
People with synaesthesia experience their senses in unusual ways; they might see colours when reading numbers, or experience tastes in the mouth when they hear sounds. These unusual experiences start early in childhood - so what is it like to be a child with synaesthesia? In this talk I’ll describe findings from my 5-year ERC-MULTISENSE research project, which tested over seven thousand children between the ages of 5 and 12 years, to diagnose synaesthesia and evaluate its impact in childhood. Our results demonstrate a surprisingly high prevalence of synaesthesia in schools, and show its impact on literacy, numeracy, learning, creativity, personality, happiness and health-related well-being. Our data suggest that the early identification of synaesthesia in childhood might bring about beneficial changes in later-life well-being. I’ll also discuss the link between synaesthesia and other conditions (e.g., autism, anxiety disorder, sensory sensitivities) and the ways in which educators and other professionals might better equip themselves to deal with the needs of synaesthetic children.