Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Mixed Signals

with 18 comments

I’ve often thought about how all the seemingly insignificant moments in my life have later turned out to be important in preparing me for what lies ahead.  Oh wow, that is pretentious and naval-gazing even for a blogger!  Yet that is kind of my point here, so bear with me.

Once upon a time, long before I met Spectrummy Daddy, I was a young student.  When I went to university, I couldn’t decide which of my two favourite subjects I preferred, so I found a course that let me do both.  I became a joint French and Sociology student, which is the best way to find yourself unemployed after you graduate, unless you decide to do voluntary work for a few years as I did, which is also the perfect antidote to becoming too pretentious.  What seemed to be a terrible combination was actually as good a set-up for my current life as any other.  Really though, I just liked the meeting of artsy French and studying social activity.

One course I was drawn to in my French class was called Novel and Anti-novel.  I love reading novels, so I thrived on that aspect of the course, with work by Flaubert and Stendhal.  But the other part of the course, the antinovel, I loathed.  It was too pretentious even for 19 year-old me, and let me tell you, she was pretentious.  Anti-novels are works (mostly fiction) that don’t follow the normal conventions of a novel.  They are frequently non-linear, and aim to transcend the traditional novel form.  See, pretentious?

My least favourite amongst them was the book Nadja by surrealist Andre Breton.  It explored the author’s fascination with an eccentric young woman named Nadja in Paris.  I’d wanted to like it, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  It seemed the most incoherent, confusing, and pointless book I’d ever read.  It was also the first time I’d ever heard of synaesthesia, and I assumed the last.  During the surrealist movement, people such as Breton were fascinated by the phenomenon, exploring this mix-up of senses through music and art.  It was irrelevant to me, and I assumed the invention of artsy, attention-loving, non-conformists.

Now I’m convinced that it is yet another insignificant moment that turns out to be pertinent.

Spot the aspies, synesthete, and Dick who is taunting them by being loud.

My understanding of synaesthesia (synesthesia in the US) is that it is a neurological condition in which certain sensory input is redirected and interpreted as a different sense, as though the wires are crossed.  For example, sounds are seen as specific colours.  Here is a better explanation.

Unlike Sensory Processing Dysfunction, where the brain over or under responds to a stimuli, here the brain interprets that stimuli through a different pathway.  Here is a post describing the difference between the two.

Pudding also seems to mix up her senses.  Recently we were at the playground, when somebody nearby decided to mow their lawn.  Pudding’s least favourite sound.  Instead of covering her ears to protect herself from the sound, Pudding screwed her eyes shut, and covered her eyes with her hands.  She has done this for a couple of years, but I’d never before put the connection to a French lecture I’d struggled to understand years previously.

I wonder if there are many other children on the spectrum whose are also experiencing synaesthesia, together with the confusion of SPD.

I wonder if this is why music and art therapy appear to be beneficial for kids like Pudding.

I wonder if Pudding’s recent breakthrough with writing happened because she was listening to modulated music at the time.

Lastly, I wonder if I should give Nadja a second read.  After all, her name is Russian for Hope, and from what I can remember, that character bears a few similarities to someone else I know, and (adorable) artsy, attention-loving, non-conformists are just my thing these days.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 17, 2011 at 7:26 am

18 Responses

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  1. great post! Our OT would tell us this all the time – combine the senses together. For example, don’t just swing on the swing. Swing and sing. Or rhyme. I think it’s a great connection that you made.
    However, if you have time to read Nadja…I’ll be very impressed! (maybe on that long flight?) 🙂


    May 17, 2011 at 7:51 am

    • Yes. Multi-sensory approaches work well. Maybe I’m starting to figure out why, though I confess to still being baffled by all this sensory stuff.
      I know, 16 hours might just do it! Actually, from what I remember, the language wasn’t difficult at all, even my very rusty French would be okay. What was tough was his habit of just stopping mid-sentence, so the reader had to infer his meaning. After a few years of interpreting Pudding though, I think I’d find it easier!

      Spectrummy Mummy

      May 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm

  2. Everything is always so different from a different perspective especially when time and aging play a hand in it.


    May 17, 2011 at 8:07 am

  3. I loved the part about how your university degree led to unemployment. My liberal arts undergraduate degree led to law school and right now collegeman is facing the same issues. As a history/holocaust major he is qualified to maybe work at a fast food restaurant…the only difference today than years ago is that most students coming out of school go for internships. It is the odd student who actually earns a paycheck…Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. 🙂


    May 17, 2011 at 8:09 am

  4. I have never heard of this before, but I am cerainly going to look into it!! Thanks for the post, a new way to look at things is always eye opening!!


    May 17, 2011 at 8:48 am

  5. Love it! This is the post of a true Liberal Arts major….experts in synthesis! I am an American Studies/History major myself.


    May 17, 2011 at 10:14 am

  6. I have often wondered the same thing about Nik. Certain things seem to cause him distress which manifests in very unexpected ways. Definitely something I should look into a bit more.


    May 17, 2011 at 10:15 am

  7. Wow, what a very interesting post. How strange that your lectures from your younger days are coming into play now. How, dare I say it, surreal! Sounds like you might be onto something too…

    xx Jazzy


    May 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    • Very surreal. Particularly when you think that I remember the lecture from a decade and a half ago, but can’t remember what I did 15 minutes ago!

      Spectrummy Mummy

      May 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm

  8. I have a bloggy friend at Craving a Little Perspective (on my blogroll) who has synesthesia in that she sees colors in letters and numbers when she sees or hears them (here’s a link http://bit.ly/jb6KR4) When I read her blog- that was the first time, I learned of synesthesia. I’m going to share your post with her as well! (Now that I know about it, I’ve wondered whether my son is seeing colors in things too because he asks and talks about color every single day!)


    May 17, 2011 at 4:03 pm

  9. Yes, especially when Tootles doesn’t like certain words, that’s what I suspected. Funny thing, Karen didn’t know I have you on my blog roll so I was reading this post when she commented on my blog to alert me to your post! 😉

    I have synesthesia and am happy to answer any questions you might have about it!


    May 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    • Ooh, lucky find! This is why I love blogging, it would take forever to find someone with synesthesia otherwise. Thank you, and thank you Solo Dialogue.

      One question I have off the top of my head: Pudding is clearly bothered by certain noises/ frequencies, and she does the eye-covering thing I described in the post. I’ve tried to protect her ears, either with my hands on her ears, or headphones, but she shrugs me off. She seems to think the assault is coming through her eyes, how do I help her with this?

      Spectrummy Mummy

      May 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm

      • The assault probably is going through her eyes – the sound probably doesn’t hurt, but what she sees when she hears the sounds is either scary to look at, or in a colour she doesn’t like. If it is synesthesia, it might not be going away when she covers her eyes, either. For example, when I look at black letters on a website or a page, I can tell the letters are black, and my eyes see the black. But in my brain I can “see” the colours, and if I close my eyes, the letters are coloured, not black.

        If it is synesthesia, the only way to make it go away would be to get rid of the noise or frequency – change it to a pleasing-looking sound. Just like Tootles likes the rock tumbler, your daughter will have sounds she likes. You could try covering up the offending sound with a pleasing sound. Perhaps record it and have her listen to that through the headphones when other sounds are bothering her?


        May 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm

        • She has habituated/sensitized to noises at home. It is unexpected noises when we are outside that are the problem. I might try taking the iPod with us for that reason.

          So would looking at something pleasant help, or is it more like what she sees with her mind’s eye?

          Spectrummy Mummy

          May 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm

          • It’s what she sees with her mind’s eye. It won’t go away if you show her something different, because it’s attached to the noise. As long as she can hear the noise, she’ll see whatever it is that she doesn’t like. If it is synesthesia. 🙂

            I would try the iPod. Won’t hurt, and might help. 🙂


            May 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm

  10. Totally interesting! (and I don’t mean that in a clinical way.) Thanks for introducing all of us to this subject. Makes me think …

    For us, it’s the multiple senses …Example: Jack averts his eyes when he’s listening to something challenging like a train or a saw – he can’t listen and watch at the same time. Challenging enough through the ears. Way too much through eyes and ears.

    Brenda (mamabegood)

    May 19, 2011 at 8:58 am

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