The colorful world of Casey McKenna

Synesthesia is just a part of life for senior student


Sanskriti Gupta and Payton Harting

Senior Casey McKenna acts on stage during the production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. McKenna has synesthesia, a condition where she associates words and numbers with colors.

March is green, but June is yellow. 

To most people these statements seem to have no logic behind them, but to senior Casey McKenna, these associations are involuntary. She began to notice it as soon as she began to learn to read and write.

“When you are a child you learn to match meanings with words, but for me I also matched colors with these words,” said McKenna.

McKenna has synesthesia which is a neurological condition where one cognitive or sensory pathway leads to an automatic involuntary second cognitive or sensory pathway. This condition is only experienced by 4 percent of the population. 

“I have never met anyone else who has experienced anything like I have,” said McKenna. 

McKenna said she often finds it frustrating to explain the way her brain works to other people because they often think she’s making it up or they don’t understand what she’s talking about. 

“I associate different personalities with different numbers. Sometimes when I see a math problem the numbers just don’t seem like they should go together even if it is correct,” said McKenna. 

Although it can be a detriment to McKenna, she said it has its positives as well. McKenna is involved in South’s theatre department and she’s also on South’s improv team, Factory Reset. She said synesthesia provides her with a creative edge while on stage.

“When I am reading a script, I can see the subcontext of the words on the page in front of me,” said McKenna. 

Even when the words are not physically in front of her she continues to use her synesthesia to her advantage. 

“When I am doing improv, there is no physical script that I can see but the words in my head still provide that creative edge that provides me with heightened senses in my character creation while on stage,” said McKenna.

Synesthesia has provided a creative edge to assist many others, like famous performers and artists. For example, Billy Joel, Pharrell Williams, and Vincent Van Gogh have used their synesthesia to their advantage similar to McKenna.