Does your child see shapes and colors when he hears music or tastes food? These are two of the 150 documented forms of synethesia, Synethesia, a neurological condition in which any of the senses (taste, touch, sight, sound, smell, proprioception, etc.) can overlap and enable those who have the condition to experience reality in way that is often much richer than is possible for the general population. The condition is often considered to be a “gift,” and can positively influence an inidividual’s artistic abilities. Sometimes, however, synethesia can be challenging for a child when these various forms of sensory overlap cause him to be less able to concentrate, read, or solve math problems. Parents and educators are often challenged to identify effective tools which can help synesthetes to perform capably in a classroom environment. And, because synesthesia is often associated with learning disabilties and special needs, the benefits of the condition are often misunderstood or overlooked.
Finally, an excellent resource for the parent of the special needs child who has synesthesia is now available. Published by Oxford University Press in 2013, “The Oxford Handbook of Synesthesia,” became available for purchase in the U.S. in early 2014. The Handbook is an exhaustive guide to synesthesia, and includes first-person perspectives on synesthesia. The book also includes chapters which address the issue of synesthesia in infants and children. In addition, Handbook addresses issues of attention and perception, the neurological underpinnings for the condition, how the condition coincides with autism and the “savant.” Lastly, the book also explores the role of synesthesia in the arts, identifying notable artists, writers and musicians in history and in today’s culture, including, Duke Ellington, Itzhak Perlman, Leonard Bernstein, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and Billy Joel.
Parents will be encouraged to read about how synesthesia can enhance the life experiences of their children. In addition, the book is a vivid reminder to all care providers and educators that no one should ever assume that a child who has special needs is experiencing reality in the same way that the adult does.
The Oxford Handbook on Synesthesia offers a comprehensive treatment of synesthesia, and is a valuable resource. The Handbook is a great reference tool for both parents and professionals who serve children who have special needs.