Synesthetic Experiences 

 

My Personal Recollections

The trait is familial.
I believe my synesthesia was inherited through my paternal grandmother's family line.  Since my grandmother passed away several years before I knew what synesthesia was, I am unable to personally verify this.  However, I have several reasons for this belief.  First, upon learning about my synesthetic characteristics, my father felt that his mother had many characteristics similar to what I described. Second, I have a young second cousin related through my paternal grandmother's line who is also believed to have synesthesia.  Lastly, my grandmother's family heritage is English, and there is a higher occurrence of synesthesia reported among females in the U.K.

Read more about my lexical-numerical colors.

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Memory is superior. 
Although I have never been rated on the Wechsler Memory Scale, I can claim a superior memory.  I can recall childhood memories very vividly and at a fairly early age.  Memorization in school was effortless.  I don't have an entirely photographic memory, but if I ever needed to recall diagrams or maps or key facts, I just had to picture what it looked like in the textbook (it's positioning on a page, the bold text, etc.) and I could recall whatever information I needed.  It made learning the German language a breeze because I could color code the nouns according to masculine, feminine or neutral:  der words were blue, die words were green, and das words were red. (And  I can still recall a surprising amount  of German vocabulary, even though it's been 14 years since I've had any use for the language!)

Almost all numerical information is remembered.  I can remember birthday dates and phone numbers galore. For instance,  I know my great-grandmother's birthday was May 10th because my mom shared that fact with me once when I was in the third grade.  I also remember when I was in college and at a party, a friend wanted to give me his phone number, but had nothing with which to write it down.  I told him to just tell it to me and I would remember it and call him the next day.  He didn't think I'd remember much of the conversation, let alone all seven digits of his phone number after being out all evening.  When I called him the next day, he wanted to know how on earth I ever remembered it--and I told him I just pictured the colors and punched in the corresponding digits on the phone. He was amazed by that.

Read more about my lexical-numerical colors.

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Math and spatial navigation suffer.
Even though I am a high school math teacher, with a Master's degree in mathematics, I was never any good at mental arithmetic computations growing up.  I think the main reason for that is that all of my math tables were learned by color-patterns.  For example, orange-brown-and-dark green represents all the addition and subtraction relationships among 5, 7, and 12.  Even today, as I teach, if I need to compute 12 - 7, I think (or see) "green minus brown is orange, therefore the answer is 5."  It takes an extra second to picture the relationship, arrive at the answer, and put that answer into words.

Since I have to "see" most math problems to work them out, when I would try to do any sort of larger calculations in my head, everything just got jumbled up--there were too many colored numbers to sort through and calculate.   I couldn't keep track of carrying and borrowing digits, because all the colors kind of swirled together. I even tried using my fingers to count and keep track of  what columns digits were aligned in, but nothing seemed to work.  This was really frustrating because I loved math and could do everything fine with paper and pencil, but felt incredibly stupid when everyone else in the class got the answer before me on a simple two digit arithmetic problem in their heads.

It wasn't until I got to college that my math-ed professor explained to the class that it was okay to add numbers from left to right.  Suddenly adding 57 + 35 in my head was very doable--I just had to add 50 + 30 to get 80 (orange + red = black) then I could add 7 + 5 to get 12.  Combine 80 and 12 to get 92.  Voila!  Adding left-to-right makes perfect sense to me and has eliminated all the messy carrying and borrowing of digits and allows me to focus on one set of colors at a time.  I am now pretty good at calculating answers mentally (although I am not always comfortable with it) and can even use my experiences to help some of my own students see mathematics a little differently.

Read more about my lexical-numerical colors.

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A minority are prone to "unusual experiences."
I have had two significant and life-threatening experiences where I have felt a strong
sense of portentousness about what was going to happen, as well as several little incidences in everyday life.

The first significant experience was Thursday, May 12, 1988.  I was with my boyfriend at the time and we were visiting his grandparents who lived in the country near Coshocton, Ohio.  It was about 9:30 at night and we were getting ready to go for a motorcycle ride.  As we were putting our helmets on in the garage, I got a very anxious feeling about going on this ride--as if something bad were about to happen.  I felt scared and related my apprehensions to my boyfriend.  He said that we'd stay off the main highway we were planning on using.  We thought if we were on the back country roads, it would be safer because fewer people would be traveling on them.  That night, not twenty minutes later, we were hit by a drunk driver who was traveling the back roads for that very same reason.  We spent the next six weeks recovering in the hospital, and I now have a metal plate and bone grafts in my leg because of it.

My second life-threatening experience was Sunday, December 21, 1997.  My husband and I had just started our winter break from teaching and we were decorating the house for Christmas.  As we were working throughout the day, Tony cleaned out the cabinet next to our fireplace--the one in which we kept our fire extinguisher.  As soon as I saw him start to replace the fire extinguisher back in the cabinet, I got a weird premonition.  I asked him to store it in our hallway closet instead, explaining that if we were ever to have a fire, I thought it would start near that corner of the house and we wouldn't be able to get to the extinguisher to put it out.  Well, at 6:00 the very next morning, I got up to use the bathroom and discovered that the roof of our house was smoldering and on fire--due to bad electrical wiring in the exact place I told Tony about the day before.  Although our house was severely damaged, we were able to contain the fire to the attic area and escape unharmed.

While those two events are the really strong cases of portentousness I've experienced, I have sometimes been able to sense other imminent outcomes--like winning a raffle or predicting a sports play.  I remember once when I was in junior high school, I attended a fishing seminar with my dad.  Near the end of the seminar there was a drawing with  prizes given away, and before the winners were chosen, I just "knew" that my dad and I were going to win the fishing excursion with the head instructor.  Or when I watch a Cleveland Indians baseball game and I describe to Tony  what the next batter is going to do, and sure enough, the play is executed exactly as I predicted.  I cannot control any of these premonitions so I tend to write them off more to intuition, coincidence, or logical reasoning than anything else, but the sense of "knowing" what is going to happen next is always there inside.

Read more about my lexical-numerical colors.

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