Hyperlexia

What is it?

Alphabet blocks

Hyperlexia is reading young

Hyperlexia is the ability of some children to read very young, often from age 2. The child learns to read naturally and is not taught. They recognise numbers, letters, words and shapes with ease (Silberberg and Silberberg 1967). Hyperlexic children seek out patterns such as letters. Usually they read instead of playing with toys such as trucks, dolls or make believe. 

Typically, it is not the meaning that motivates a hyperlexic child, rather it is the joy of recognising a pattern (Ostralenk et al 2017). Many children with hyperlexia don’t read books for the story. This may be different from early readers who read to take in information. However there is a lack of evidence at present. Much of this is still being explored.

Why raise awareness?

Up to 20% of autistic children may have hyperlexia (Ostralenk et al 2017, Burd et al 1985). Professionals do not usually recognise hyperlexia as a trait (Zhang and Joshi 2019). Children without a neurodevelopmental diagnosis (NDC) may also have this trait (Cohen et al 1997), however this is still unclear.

The positive aspects of NDCs are often downplayed (Robertson 2010). There is a focus on struggles in order to get support. However this can miss the child’s lived experience. A hyperlexic child navigates the world early on in a different way to most other children. A lack of recognition of this may lead to frustration. Particularly if strengths and interests are not encouraged or well understood.

Would you like to find out more?

You can find more information:

  • Help with Comprehension – Some hyperlexic children have particular difficulties with understanding language. As a teacher or professional there are several simple ways that you can help. 

  • Books, articles and other links – There isn’t a huge amount of information out there on hyperlexia. We’ve collected the main links and books available.

  • Characteristics of a hyperlexic child – We have put together a summary of anecdotal characteristics which you may recognise in a child. These are not ‘facts’ but are possible things in common.

  • What does the research tell us? – There are two recent analysis of the research into this area. Unfortunately most of the studies have been small and observational. 

 

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

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