Characteristics of the hyperlexic child (under 5)

Picture of child reading vintage
Many observational studies and anecdotal reports suggest that there are some characteristiscs common to many children who read early.

An anecdotal list based on observations and reports from parents and research, based on children under 5 years old.

Many observational studies and anecdotal reports suggest that there are some characteristics common to many children who read early. It is not known how these change as children grow into adulthood. This list focuses on characteristics of children and when hyperlexia first becomes noticeable, from age 2 onwards.

NOTE: We need better research on whether there are common characteristics. This list is from anecodotal reports from parents and the research literature. Neurotastic is planning a survey in order to increase understanding of this trait. So the following is not a widely peer reviewed agreed list and should not be taken as fact or diagnosis.

Why will knowing characteristics help?

Our aim is that it will increase awareness, understanding and more tailored support in education and speech therapy for children with this trait. It is also hoped that a focus on an area of strength such as hyperlexia will highlight that neurodevelopmental differences are not just ‘deficits’ but rather a different way of learning, aspects of which can be superior to more ‘typical’ learning. Characteristics can give us more clarity as to how a child prefers to learn.

If you are a parent of a child with hyperlexia and would like to take part in the confidential survey then please contact hyperlexiaABCsurvey at

Characteristics of hyperlexia in children under 5 years

Reading ability

  • Natural early ability to decode letters that has not been taught
  • Reading fluently before the age of 5 years, but often much earlier
  • Reading ability higher than reading comprehension
  • Could see letters everywhere, such as in the clouds
  • May have favourite letters or logos such as 20th Century Fox or LG
  • Might be able to skip count, spell long words or recognise shapes and colours
  • Prefers programmes with letters such as number blocks
  • Prefers subtitles on TV, likes the logos and credits as much or more than the story

Possible developmental delays

  • Sensory differences such as dislike of hairdryers or liking being upside down
  • Fine or gross motor delays such as difficulty holding a crayon or kicking a ball
  • May have a neurodevelopmental condition such as autism
  • May prefer to order toys rather than pretend play
  • May take time to process speech or outside input
  • May have language delay with speech and/or understanding
  • May prefer routine and low demand environment
  • May have a learning difficulty

Information.  See references here.  Date created: 1/4/2021     Date reviewed: 1/5/2022

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