What is Hyperlexia?
When the ability to read is quite advance as compared to the ability to understand spoken language, it is known as hyperlexia.
Children with hyperlexia can read words far beyond what is expected from the children of their age. Along with the enhanced reading ability, there is significant difficulty in understanding verbal language, abnormal social skills, and difficulty in understanding and interacting with people.
Hyperlexia and Autism
Hyperlexia is linked with autism strongly. According to a clinical review 84 percent of children with hyperlexia fall in the autism spectrum.(1) Also in the same review, it was found that 6-14 percent of children with autism had hyperlexia.
Most of the children with hyperlexia show strong reading skills before the age of 5 years. A few begin to read as early as 18 months of age.
How Is Hyperlexia Different From Dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a learning disability that is characterized by difficulty in reading and spelling. It is the opposite of hyperlexia.
Children with hyperlexia cannot understand what they are reading and do not have good communication skills, it is opposite with dyslexic kids. In dyslexia, the children can understand what they read and also have good communication skills. They can also understand and reason well. Those with dyslexia are fast thinkers and very creative.
Signs of Hyperlexia
There are four main symptoms of hyperlexia. If your child shows these symptoms, there are chances that he is suffering from hyperlexia.
- Signs of Developmental Disorder: Along with the enhanced reading ability, children with hyperlexia show signs of developmental disorder, the main being inability to speak and communicate like other kids of similar age. Such kids might also show behavioral problems.
- Ability To Learn Quickly: Along with reading ability, hyperlexic kids learn quickly without much teaching. Sometimes such kids even teach themselves how to read. A child does it by repeating the thing he/she sees and hears over and over again.
- Lower than Normal Understanding: Children with hyperlexia have a good reading ability but lower than normal understanding and learning skills. They find it difficult to join puzzles and figuring out games and toys.
- Affinity for Books: Kids with hyperlexia have an extra liking for books than other toys and games. Such kids are fascinated with words and letters.
How to Diagnose Hyperlexia?
Hyperlexia is not an easy condition to diagnose. The child might also show behavioral and learning issues.
The diagnosis is based on the symptom analysis and changes the child displays over time. But sooner the condition is diagnosed faster can the need to learn is known and the condition can be improved.
- A psychologist, behavior therapist, and speech therapist should likely be seen to find out for sure, what the child is suffering from.
- The doctor also examines the child’s speaking and communication skills. He would also check the child’s hearing, vision, and reflexes.
- Occupational therapists, special education teachers, and social workers can also help diagnose this condition.
Treatment of Hyperlexia
The treatment plan needs to be made, depending on the child’s needs and learning style as it is not the same for everyone. Some children would need help in writing for a few years while others would need an extended treatment till adulthood.
The parents are also a part of a child’s treatments as they are the best people to communicate with the child, about their feelings. They can easily make out what new skills would the child need more attention on.
- Speech therapy, communication exercises, and lessons on how to understand what they are reading is needed as part of the treatment plan.
- Therapies with child psychologists and occupations therapists would also help.
- All kids reading well at a low age not necessarily suffer from hyperlexia or fall in the autism spectrum. Also, all those diagnosed with hyperlexia are not autistic. Different children have different ways of developing various skills.
Give your child time and space to develop. And if in doubt you can always consult a child psychologist.