Synaesthesia Discovery

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Moving Pictures – Motion to Coloured Driver Synaesthesia


Today reminds me of the day when I first discovered my son Skye’s in-depth synaesthesia. The indescribable feeling on that day came back so vividly after the discovery of my children’s motion to coloured driver synaesthesia.

Thomas went out with his grandfather on their usual weekend bus and train trip this morning. After I picked him up from the railway station in the afternoon, we had our usual chat about his day in the car. Thomas then asked me what Skye and I did today while he was out.

“We went for a walk. Oh there was something amazing. Skye told me about his synaesthesia in the Regular Show you guys watch.”

“Mum, I have a weird synaesthesia as well. I see bus drivers and car drivers in colour if they drive over 100 KM per hour.”

After so many months of hearing my children’s unusual stories of their synaesthetic perception, I still felt surprised at what I have just heard.

“I don’t see the colour on you if you drive slowly. But if you speed up or drive fast on freeway, I see a purple colour all over you.” Thomas offered more explanation.

“Really? Do you see every driver driving a car on freeway in colour?” I started feeling the same sensation as the time I first discovered Skye’s synaesthesia.
“Yes, of course!” Thomas thought it was a silly question. I sighed.
“Ok, tell me how long have you had this synaesthesia? Is it something new?”
“No, since I came out of your tummy.” He was extending his both arms out and pretending he was pulling a baby out of the mother’s tummy. I laughed till my tears came out.

“But mum, it’s true. I remember I was seeing colour on you and dad in my baby seat since I was a baby. Dad used to be in green, but then changed to red when I was two. You used to have a blackish colour, but now is purple.”

Oh dear, I always feel that I need to be careful what I say in front of my children as both have an elephant memory. My dad rang me last night just to inform me how pleasantly shocked he was that Thomas remembered every detail of a bus trip they went on a long time ago. They were doing their planning for today’s excursion yesterday afternoon. My dad asked Thomas to suggest a place that he wanted to visit. Thomas said, “oh Grandpa, remember once we went to Frankston, then caught 788 bus to Stony Point? We then caught a train back to Frankston, and had fish and chips. We spent the whole day out, and didn’t get home until 5:40pm. We can go somewhere close to Frankston.”

I quickly realised that the inducer for Thomas’ coloured driver perception was motion. As a person whose neural signals travel as fast as those of my children, I immediately saw an image of North Melbourne football players running in the field and understood why Thomas saw colour on each player. I also knew there would be more surprise waiting for me at home.

Skye was playing his iPad games while we entered the house. After telling him what I had just learnt from Thomas, it was almost expected that he had this synaesthesia too. It was also not surprising that his synaesthesia had another layer of complexity.

Skye not only sees drivers in colour, but also colour changes based on the speed measured by Revs Per Minute (RPM). Although Skye perceives me as green and his dad as red through his people to colour synaesthetic perception, he sees us in the same set of colours as we drive. The higher RPM, the darker we get.

0RPM (when the car just turned off): white
1RPM: almost nothing, but still has a tiny bit of texture
2RPM: yellow
3RPM: bamboo
4RPM: green
5RPM: very light black
6RPM: code red

Skye’s Pop drives a smaller car. He sees his Pop in another set of synaesthetic colours, but only when Pop’s car reaches a relatively high RPM.

3.5RPM: scarlett
4RPM: orange
5RPM: very dark green
6RPM: dark ultramarine

Skye praised us for being safe drivers as he had never had a chance to test his synaesthesia for 7 or 8 RPM :-) He predicts 7RPM has a very very very deep sea blue colour whereas 8RPM is very very dark purple. Skye claimed, without me mentioning about the link between synaesthesia and enhanced memory, that seeing colour in a driver based on the RPM of the car definitely helped him remember a lot of events, and increased his awareness of safety.

When I first met my husband, he told me that he seemed to be only attracted by people who were unusual. I took a bit offense at the time. Now looking at my two children, the word “unusual” might be an understatement!

Thursday last week, I was rushing home after work full of excitement. Finally, I could see Skye after him being away for four days on a school camp. However, upon arriving at home, I sensed that the atmosphere was intense. I saw both children in their shared bedroom. Skye was sitting on the edge of his bed with his legs across.

“I am really disappointed in you, Thomas.” Skye’s face looked stern.
“I am sorry, I don’t know what’s happened to me. I turned the night light off the first two nights you were away, but I don’t know why I turned it back on last night. Will you still let me pass my test?” Thomas was sitting on the carpet looking very guilty and ashamed of himself.

Oh, I got it. That must be the Maturity Test Skye left for Thomas before he went away. Since Thomas was little, Skye started creating what he called “Maturity Test” for Thomas. His goal was to understand Thomas’ maturity level before he could assign Thomas certain tasks or consider him as a companion for certain activities. Thomas takes his Maturity Test seriously, and is eager to please his elder sibling.

I quickly came to Thomas’ defense after understanding the conversation.
“It is true that Thomas did not have the night light on for the first two nights.” I was even wondering why Thomas changed all of a sudden as he always preferred a bit light at night.

“Thomas, silly boy! Why didn’t you tell me it was part of your Maturity Test! I would have turned the light off for you before we left the house this morning!” I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Thomas.

“But mum, that’s called cheating!” Skye looked in a total shock …

(The attached image is sourced from

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