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Home  >  Family and Community  >  Family Features
Abbigale Hears in Color  -  Learning About Abbigale's Colors
By Hilary Seitz, Ph.D. « Prev   Page 2 of 7   Next »

To better understand my daughter and her special gift, I devised several different ways to learn about her "colors." To begin this investigation, I decided to ask Abbigale a series of questions about letter and number colors.  Several websites provided short surveys to see if you were a synesthetic.  (;http:/ )  One website suggested making a chart of random letters and numbers and writing their "color." Then two weeks later, do this exercise again to see if the colors are the same.  Another website actually had a battery of "tests" to complete to document the information. This baseline information seemed like a good start for Abbigale, because I wasn't quite sure if she was making up colors, and some skeptical folks believe synesthestes are just remembering colored refrigerator letter magnets.  She was a child whom I always thought was very imaginative - she made up many stories as a preschooler.  Her creative side always has shown through particularly in her oral language and artwork.  She would often write or tell "make-believe stories."

I made a chart with all the letters, numbers up to 20, additional numbers that were larger digits, days of the week, and our family names.  I asked her to tell me what color she saw when I said the letter/number/word.  I did this same exercise two more times both in two-week intervals.  In all three sittings, Abbigale gave me the same color for each symbol she heard.  She was thrilled to do this exercise with me and we often talked about her "colors" of random things (other things, words, and emotions).  I always started the conversation with specific items and questions for her to address.  Each conversation elicited additional information about her Synesthesia, and new issues and topics evolved. She started initiating conversations about her "colors."  One day I asked her if we could create the colors on the computers.  She smiled and nodded quickly.  See chart below for her colors.

A B C D E F g/G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T (with sand on it) U V W X Y Z

1 2 3 4 5 6 7/7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 30 100 200 1000 2000 2052 

Abbigale's letter-color combinations are unique to her.  Chromatic-graphemic Synesthetes all have their own combinations.  One researcher found that many Synesthetics have similar vowel color combinations.  This holds true for Abbigale as well for four of the five vowels. "Thus, while I must stress that they are at best generalities, among Synesthetes who see letters as colored, most often "A" is red, "E" yellow/white, "I" black, white, or gray, and "O" white, whereas "U" cuts across the eleven basic colors green being the most common." ( The A-blue combination was the second most common for A's. 

Abbigale made several comments as she discussed her color combinations.  During each telling, she added more information to describe the color.  She added textures ("it has sand on it" or "it has an outline"), shades, and she said the color would be different if it were lowercase or if the sound was different (hard or soft sound).  Abbigale was eager to draw me pictures of what each looked like.

Abbigale uses her colors to help her remember things too -- or perhaps the colors are what give her cues. Abbigale mentioned during one session, "I can remember the time we get out of school by just remembering yellow 'cause 3:00 is yellow.  And I can remember what time we go to bed by just remembering green, yellow, white and that is 7:30."

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About the Author: Dr. Hilary Seitz is an Associate Professor and the Early Childhood Program Coordinator for College of Education at the University of Alaska Anchorage She has been teaching in the Early Childhood field since 1986 as an infant/toddler teacher, preschool teacher, primary grades teacher in public school, reading teacher, and as a college professor since 2003. Her research interests include: family-community partnerships, early literacy strategies, teacher research and reflection using observations and documentation, and currently she is exploring pre-service early childhood teacher education practices. In her free time, she enjoys reading, camping, skiing, hiking, sewing, cooking, and spending time with her family.
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