Synaesthesia (or synesthesia, for the American spelling) is a co-occurring condition for some autistic people, though being a synaesthete doesn’t mean you are autistic. It’s a fascinating and creative perk, as far as I can gather.

It’s proving much harder to describe than I expected it to. So here’s a helpful explanation, from the NAS website, describing far better than I can what synaesthesia is and how it relates as a co-occurring condition for autistic people.

There are different forms of synaesthesia. You may be be able to see sounds, hear colours, taste shapes and seemingly every other combination that combines the senses in ways that most people don’t. Those who can may assume that everyone can, so reading this might be an eyeopener to put a word to your skill!

Here are some examples, which I hope will make my clumsy explanation more clear… Hearing a particular sound, to some synaesthetes, triggers the sensation of touch in a particular part of the body. Another person may see smells as particular shapes, numbers as colours. Nope, this is too hard to explain, probably because the closest I can imagine is when I hear a piece of music and it conjures such specific and vivid past experiences, giving me an emotional reaction as intense as it was the first time around. Hopefully, we can all identify with that?

Whilst I’ve described it as a perk, it’s not all fun for synaesthetes. A common feature is a poor sense of direction, as well as a difficulty with maths  and sometimes confusion between right and left. On the plus side, many synaesthetes have amazing memory for detail, really intricate detail. They may not remember it in the traditional sense, but they have a whole world of other sensations associated with it. I’ll quote from the National Autistic Society now, as this is just so hard to describe: “Some people may forget the name of the person they know but remember the colour, or taste, or even the temperature of the word. They often remember conversations, verbal instructions, movie dialogues, text blocks in books, precise location of objects, furniture arrangements, etc… in great detail.” – Click here → for the link to this article.