Hyperlexia is a syndrome with the following three main characteristics:
- Early precocious reading and/or intense fascination with letters and numbers.
- Delays in verbal language.
- Social skills deficits.
In addition, some children who are hyperlexic may exhibit the following characteristics:
- Learn expressive language in a peculiar way, echo or memorize the sentence structure without understanding the meaning (echolalia), reverse pronouns
- Rarely initiates conversations
- An intense need to keep routines, difficulty with transitions, ritualistic behavior
- Auditory, olfactory and / or tactile sensitivity
- Self-stimulatory behavior
- Specific, unusual fears
- Normal development until 18-24 months, then regression
- Strong auditory and visual memory
- Difficulty answering "Wh--" questions, such as "what," "where," "who," and "why"
- Think in concrete and literal terms, difficulty with abstract concepts
- Listen selectively, appear to be deaf
How is Hyperlexia Defined?
Hyperlexia has characteristics similar to autism, behavior disorder, language disorder, emotional disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, hearing impairment, giftedness or, paradoxically, mental retardation.
To develop effective teaching strategies and more typical childhood development, it is important to differentiate hyperlexia from other disorders. A thorough speech and language pathologist who is familiar with the syndrome of hyperlexia is a crucial first step. Psychological tests which emphasise visual processes rather than verbal skills aid in identifying hyperlexia.
Hearing, neurological, psychiatric, blood chemistry and genetic evaluations can be performed to rule out other disorders but are not needed to identify hyperlexia.
What can be done?
The future of a hyperlexic child depends on developing their language expression and comprehension skills. Intensive speech and language therapy and early intervention programs can help achieve this objective. The child's reading skills should be used as a primary means of developing language.
It is important to teach the child appropriate social skills. Providing opportunities for the child to interact with children whose behavior is more socially appropriate is one way to accomplish this.
Parent, teachers and other professionals should work together to develop programs for each child to reach their fullest potential.
American Hyperlexia Association (AHA) Website: http://www.hyperlexia.org/
An organisation that promotes understanding of hyperlexia - a syndrome characterised by precocious reading ability and difficulties in verbal understanding and social skills.
Hyperlexia and Language Disorders Website: http://www.geocities.com/HotSprings/9402/
This site has been developed by the parent of a hyperlexic child to provide information related to Hyperlexia and Language Disorders in children ages six and over.
The Canadian Hyperlexia Association Website: http://home.ican.net/%7Echa/
Hyperlexia: Information on a syndrome which interferes with language and social interaction, coupled with a precocious ability to read.