Sunday, July 24, 2016

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12 Ways for Kids to Play with a Bag of Ice {Boredom Busters for Kids}

It has been so hot here lately. So we have been looking for ways to keep cool all summer long, including trying out some simple boredom busters for kids using a bag of ice

12 ways for kids to play with a bag of ice - simple and fun boredom buster activities for kids from And Next Comes L

Whether you just need a quick sensory activity or you actually want the kids to learn while the play, these activities are great for kids of all ages. They're low prep, simple, and inexpensive. You could even make your own ice cubes ahead of time instead of buying a bag of ice cubes from the store. Or color the water before you freeze it to make your own colored ice cubes for the kids to play with!

But that's just a few variations you could try...

So grab a bag of ice and beat the heat (so cliche, I know) with these simple play ideas!

12 ways for kids to play with a bag of ice - simple and fun boredom buster activities for kids from And Next Comes L
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Saturday, July 23, 2016

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Everyday Accommodations & Strategies for Kids with Hyperlexia

Raising a child with hyperlexia is full of fun surprises and quirks.

However, sometimes simple day to day activities like leaving the house or bath time can be particularly challenging for these kids.

So I asked other parents in my hyperlexia Facebook group what some of their current struggles are and paired them with some of the struggles that we have encountered with J to compile a list of common daily life challenges. I've also included a detailed list of strategies to try for each of those issues so that you can hopefully find a strategy or accommodation to help you and your child.

Here are some practical strategies and accommodations for kids with hyperlexia to tackle those day to day challenges! In this post, I cover five daily challenges. However, I am also working on an eBook that covers over 25 different daily challenges and includes lots of specific strategies to target those challenges.

List of practical everyday accommodations and strategies to try with kids who have hyperlexia from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

Challenge #1: Expanding Play Beyond Letters

I remember when J's hyperlexia first became apparent to us it was because he would play with his letters all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. Alphabet magnets, alphabet puzzles, alphabet cookie cutters...alphabet, alphabet, alphabet. He would never build towers, play with LEGO bricks, color and draw, or drive cars around like other kids would. Instead, he would use those toys and turn them into letters and numbers.

So how can you encourage your child's play beyond the letters?

Well, I am not one to discourage fascinations or take away toys that are obviously used for stimming for J. Instead, I focused on tying those favorite toys into new and novel ways to play with other materials and eventually those toys could be gently phased out of the play. Basically, I would take his interest and use it to get him interested in something new. Or to at least try something new!

Strategies to try:

  • Combine new toys with old favorites (e.g., stamp alphabet magnets into play dough, but first encourage your child to touch, pinch, and roll the play dough)
  • Create alphabet themed sensory bins that include lots of different items that relate to the letter and encourages kids to explore the different materials
  • Bury alphabet toys in a sensory bin and encourage them to excavate their letters out of the sensory material then try again using another type of sensory bin fillers
  • Introduce your child to other topics such as maps, geography, history dates, periodic table, etc. that include a lot of letters, numbers, or symbols
  • Label toys with written words, letters, or numbers to encourage initial exploration of the non-alphabet toys 

Challenge #2: Poor or Awkward Conversation Skills

Poor and awkward conversation skills were the huge red flag for us and the main reason we knew something was going on with J. How could our child read so amazingly well, but couldn't carry on a conversation with us? And when he did try to engage in a conversation, why was he always out of context or saying really random things?

Having a conversation with him was difficult and awkward. I've already covered this particular topic in more detail in the post Conversation Skills in Kids with Hyperlexia, where I shared a majority of these strategies in more detail.

Strategies to try:

  • Give them time to respond
  • Use cloze statements and open-ended statements instead of WH- questions
  • Use speech scripts to model conversation skills
  • Practice knock-knock jokes
  • Read books that use speech bubbles
  • Use an interesting tone while speaking or even sing the questions
  • Write it out
  • Expand on what the child says
  • Teach body language and eye contact directly
  • Avoid using idioms or metaphors while speaking
  • Use movement and music to encourage conversation (one of the first back and forth conversations that I had with J occurred while I pushed him in a sensory swing!)
  • Practice answering common questions so that when your child is asked these questions, they know how to answer appropriately (e.g., try these free printable all about me questions and prompts as a starting point)
  • Practice WH- questions directly and prompt or model the appropriate responses

Challenge #3: Pronoun Reversals

Pronoun reversals are common in kids with hyperlexia. J still mixes up his and her occasionally, but he was 5 1/2 before he started using the correct pronouns for himself and using he/she correctly. Up until that time, he would say things like, "J have a try" instead of "Can I have a try?"

So if your hyperlexic child is still mixing up pronouns, then no worries. It is common and eventually gets sorted out, but there are definitely lots of different things you can do to work on pronouns.

Strategies to try:

Challenge #4: Sensory Issues

Sensory issues are extremely common with kids who have hyperlexia, especially those that have an autism diagnosis as well.

As a parent, it is important to have a strong understanding of the different sensory systems so that you can better target your child's sensory issues. So I highly recommend reading some books about sensory processing. Your child's occupational therapist (if applicable) can also help highlight your child's sensory issues.

Strategies to try:

Challenge #5: Leaving the House

Leaving the house was certainly difficult for us most days between the ages of two and four and a half. Our struggles usually revolved around clocks and the time never being exactly the same time on each clock. Or we were only allowed to leave the house at a precise time as defined by J. It was definitely a big challenge for us!

Strategies to try:

  • Use a visual schedule to show the daily routine so that child knows what to expect during the day (grab my free visual schedule printable here)
  • Try leaving the house when your child is generally the most content and flexible (for us, that is first thing in the morning after breakfast)
  • Write a social story about leaving the house and what it entails
  • Provide maps that show where you are going
  • Create a travel sensory kit with fidgets, chew toys, etc. in case your child gets anxious or overwhelmed while out and about
  • Remind your child the night before and in the morning of any upcoming appointments or errands so that they know what to expect ahead of time
  • Provide a pedometer, watch, or stop watch to your child when you go for walks as the numbers may be extremely motivating to your child (at least they were for us!)
  • Use their love of letters to get them out of the house (e.g., try this paper plate alphabet scavenger hunt)
  • Create a checklist of all the places that you will be going to so that your child can check them off as you visit them (same idea applies to shopping in a grocery store!)
  • Mark important events and appointments on a calendar so your child can see what's coming up
  • Provide photos that show where you are going 
  • Bring a favorite alphabet or number toy along
    • J loved this alphabet flashcards book so we took it everywhere with us when he was two
    • Calculators were also a lifesaver for us! J would happily go anywhere with us as long as he had a calculator to play with!

Other Ideas You'll Love

This post is part of a monthly series called Parenting Children with Special Needs. This month's topic is daily life and you can find the other posts regarding this topic below.

Life with Trauma ~ Living in the shadows‎ | STEAM Powered Family
A Day in the Life of a Special Needs Mom| The Chaos and The Clutter 
One Simple Trick to Connect with Your Child - Even on the Rough Days | Parenting Chaos

List of practical everyday accommodations and strategies to try with kids who have hyperlexia from And Next Comes L
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Saturday, July 02, 2016

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31 July Activities for Kids {Free Activity Calendar}

School's out, the weather's warm, and the kids are likely already telling you that they're bored. Well, no worries. This free July activity calendar for kids is the perfect (and easy!) way to keep them entertained all summer long. From water games, patriotic crafts and activities, music ideas, and lots of outdoor activities, this calendar is jam packed with fun ideas for kids of all ages.

July activities & crafts for kids with free downloadable activity calendar - includes lots of summer activities and crafts from And Next Comes L

Are you ready for some simple spring and summer fun with this activity calendar? This activity calendar includes lots of activities and crafts perfect for warmer weather! Here's what you'll find on this amazing free June activity calendar for kids:

  1. Free Printable Canada Day I Spy Game
  2. Pipe Cleaner Firework Paintings from Where Imagination Grows
  3. Patriotic Bracelets from Stay at Home Educator
  4. Fourth of July Sensory Bin from Stay at Home Educator
  5. 3 Simple Fine Motor Firework Crafts from House of Burke
  6. Firework Wand Craft from Lalymom
  7. Frozen Star Painting from House of Burke
  8. Bouncy Ball Painting from Crayon Box Chronicles
  9. Animal Washing Sensory Bin from Where Imagination Grows
  10. Water Balloon Bash from Fireflies & Mudpies
  11. DIY PVC Pipe Sprinkler from Preschool Inspirations
  12. Spray Bottle Tie Dye from Crayon Box Chronicles
  13. Musical Science Pool
  14. Rocket Hopscotch
  15. Dinosaur Ice Cream Excavation from Lalymom
  16. Loose Parts Play in the Backyard
  17. Easy Volcano Eruptions from Preschool Inspirations
  18. Desert Moldable Sand from Crayon Box Chronicles
  19. Bowling with Coconuts from Fun-A-Day!
  20. Melted Bead Suncatcher Mobile Craft from Where Imagination Grows
  21. Tie Dye Soap Foam
  22. Giant Chalk Keyboard
  23. How to Teach Kids to Tell Time Using the Trampoline
  24. Soap Foam Printing from Fireflies & Mudpies
  25. Name Splash Letter Recognition Game from Preschool Inspirations
  26. Summer Scented Soap Foam
  27. Coconut Water Beads Sensory Bin from Fun-A-Day!
  28. Free Printable Camping I Spy Game
  29. 3 Games to Play with Water Blasters from Fireflies & Mudpies
  30. Shell Painting Ocean Art from Fun-A-Day!
  31. DIY Recycled Outdoor Music Station
These crafts and activities can be found on this free activity calendar for kids. Download your copy below and keep it handy on your phone or computer. Then every morning, simply open the calendar, find the current date, and click on the corresponding photo. You will be taken to the activity's or craft's instructions. No need to plan activities for your kids as this calendar has it all: math, science, crafts, fine motor activities, and more! To download the calendar, either click on the image below or click the link below the image.
Free downloadable activity calendar for kids for the month of July from And Next Comes L

July activities & crafts for kids with free downloadable activity calendar - includes lots of summer activities and crafts from And Next Comes L
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Thursday, June 30, 2016

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Canada Day Themed I Spy Game {Free Printable for Kids}

When you think of Canada, what are the first things that come to mind? Mounties? Maple leaves? Geese? Hockey? Well, this free printable Canada Day themed I spy game for kids has all of your favourite Canadian icons! 

Free Canada Day themed I Spy game for kids from And Next Comes L

Your kids are going to love searching and counting Canadian themed items with this free printable! Unlike my regular I spy printables, this Canada Day themed one comes in three levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced, making it perfect for kids of all ages!

Free Canada Day themed I Spy game for kids from And Next Comes L
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Monday, June 27, 2016

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DIY Upcycled Bike Basket for Kids

On a whim, I put together this DIY upcycled bike basket for four year old K. See, he really likes to collect rocks and sticks. Often, he places them in his pockets or mine, but sometimes, neither of us have pockets. 

So one morning, we were going to go for a bike ride to the pond near our house, but he was being a little resistant to go. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted this old empty wipes container in our garage and I asked him if he would like to collect treasures in it. Then I thought, "Hey, let's attach it to the handlebars and make a basket!"

K was thrilled and so was my husband who eagerly grabbed the drill and string. Within minutes, K was ready to collect treasures from the pond in his brand new upcycled bike basket.

Easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

This post contains affiliate links.

How to Make a DIY Upcycled Bike Basket for Kids

Here's what you'll need to make your own DIY upcycled bike basket for kids:

On the back of the wipes container, carefully drill four small holes: two on top of each other on each side (see photo below). I say drill carefully because it is very easy to accidentally drill through the front of the wipes container. The size of the holes will depend on the size of the string or zip ties used to secure the container to the bike. Loop the string or zip tie through the holes and secure the container to the handlebars of the bike. That's it! It literally takes just a couple of minutes to put together.

How to turn a plastic wipes container into an easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

Your kid might want to decorate their bike basket using permanent markers, stickers, or washi tape, but since our container was already decorated with a lovely Finding Nemo sticker (that tells you how old this container is!), we skipped this step.

How to turn a plastic wipes container into an easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

Easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

The great thing about this DIY upcycled bike basket is that it can be opened in two ways. Kids can lift the whole lid to insert larger items into their basket...

How to turn a plastic wipes container into an easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

How to turn a plastic wipes container into an easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

Or they can pop open the wipe dispenser part to insert smaller objects. K really loves to push rocks through this small opening.

How to turn a plastic wipes container into an easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L

Such a simple DIY project! And the kids are going to love being able to collect their own treasures while out on bike rides.

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Easy DIY upcycled bike basket for kids from And Next Comes L
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

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Signs That Your Early Reader May Have Hyperlexia

When J first started reading just before he turned two, I was shocked. He couldn't honestly be reading, could he?

So I started spelling random words before him and he would read them back to me time and time again.

I remember thinking, wow, this kid is really something special

And he is, but as he grew older and other issues started appearing, I started seeing a gap between his amazing ability to read and his speech.

I searched and searched, to no avail. I simply could not figure out what was going on.

Did he have sensory processing disorder?

Did he have autism?

Was he just gifted and really sensitive?

Years later I would learn that J has hyperlexia and it was exactly what I was looking for in my original searches.

So what is hyperlexia and its signs? And how is it different from early reading?

Signs of hyperlexia and how it's different from an early reader from And Next Comes L

Hyperlexia or Early Reader?

Hyperlexia is a precocious self-taught ability to read at an early age, usually before the age of five, accompanied by intense fascinations with letters and numbers, as well as significant difficulties in oral language. So a child with hyperlexia usually has speech problems and difficulties with comprehension.

In contrast, an early reader develops normally and are considered neurotypical with no issues with speech and/or comprehension. These kids can be classified as hyperlexia type I, as proposed by Dr. Treffert. Although not everyone agrees on this classification system.

Signs of Hyperlexia

Here are some of the signs of hyperlexia, above and beyond the self-taught ability to read at an early age:

1. Intense fascinations with letters, numbers, maps, and logos

These fascinations can almost be OCD-like in nature. Often these kids don't want to play with anything other than whatever they are fascinated with. You can read more about these intense fascinations here.

For instance, Kara shared in our hyperlexia support group that her son "began carrying a letter W magnet around with him everywhere around 18 months. It was his security item!" We had similar experiences as J would play and carry around letters everywhere he went. His security item was an English/Spanish ABC flashcards book that he carried everywhere (until it was beyond recognizable)!

2. Significant difficulties with verbal language

Kids with hyperlexia struggle with verbal language, both understanding it and speaking it themselves. Hyperlexic children struggle understanding "WH" questions and often appear to be selective listeners. They rarely initiate conversations, which was a huge telltale sign for us, and their speech is often echolalic in nature. They also struggle understanding abstract language and are literal thinkers. You can read more about the conversation skills of kids with hyperlexia here.

3. Develop normally, but regress around 18-24 months

Unfortunately for me, my memory is fuzzy around this time period because I was so pregnant with K at the time, but I do know that J's fascination with letters became evident around 19 months. I don't recall him really regressing, but after speaking with other families, they did notice a period of regression with their children during this time. For instance, Chelsey shared in our hyperlexia support group that her son "regressed at 18 months and lost all of his words, except for numbers, by 2 years of age."

4. Awkward social skills

Hyperlexic kids are awkward socially, which isn't surprising since most of these kids also receive an autism diagnosis alongside the hyperlexia label. J has always bonded better with adults instead of other kids and after discussions with other families, they have noticed a similar pattern with their kids. Their difficulties with verbal language likely contributes to the social skills difficulties, which I have definitely noticed with my son when he interacts with his classmates.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Child May Have Hyperlexia

If you think your child may have hyperlexia, then start by reading everything you can about hyperlexia and ask for a referral to a speech pathologist and/or psychologist. Here are some other helpful resources that you may be interested in:

This post is part of a monthly series called Parenting Children with Special Needs. This month's topic is recognizing signs and you can find the other posts regarding this topic below.

Seeing the Signs of Childhood Trauma | STEAM Powered Family

Signs of hyperlexia and how it's different from an early reader from And Next Comes L
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Monday, June 20, 2016

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The Intense Fascinations of Kids with Hyperlexia

As I continue to dive deeper into the ABCs of hyperlexia series, I am amazed and surprised by how many subtle characteristics of hyperlexia other parents can relate to, the characteristics that you likely won't find on a hyperlexia fact sheet. For instance, I recently mentioned how my son J gives a canned response of "I don't know" when answering a WH question in this conversation skills post and it turns out it might be kind of common with these kids. Many parents in my support group told me that their hyperlexic children do it too! How interesting!

I remember when I first blogged about my son's hyperlexia that a huge hyperlexia advocate, Dr. Treffert, reached out to me and told me how valuable it was to listen to parents of hyperlexic children because we are the experts. At the time, I hardly felt like an expert on anything, but I can see what he means. Us parents of hyperlexic children have a wealth of information to share about what day-to-day life with hyperlexia looks like. So in preparation for this post, I reached out to fellow hyperlexic parents to find out more about what their kids are fasincated by.

It's no secret that kids with hyperlexia have an intense fascination with letters, numbers, logos, maps, or visual patterns. 

But what do those fascinations look like in daily life? 

And what do those fascinations turn into? 

And what other things do these kids become fascinated with?

A look at the intense fascinations of kids with hyperlexia from And Next Comes L

The Intense Fascinations of Kids with Hyperlexia

I think for most parents of hyperlexic children the first thing they notice is the intense fascination with letters. These kids look for them everywhere, point them out everywhere, play with alphabet toys constantly, and turn practically every object possible into a letter. Here are some examples of how this fascination with letters plays out in day-to-day life:

  • Looking at license plates and reading and/or tracing the letters and numbers on the plates
  • Watching all of the credits at the end of a movie
  • Enjoying movie credits more so than the actual movie itself
  • Playing with alphabet magnets constantly and arranging them into alphabetical order or writing words
  • Singing ABCs both forwards and backwards
  • Preferring to watch TV and movies with the closed captions or subtitles turned on
  • Reading signs around the neighborhood and/or tracing the letters on the signs if within reach
  • Making letters out of any material possible such as crayons, cars, rocks, sticks, etc.
  • Fonts - J loves to write in fun fonts, trace his fingers over fancy lettering, and even taught himself cursive handwriting in less than 20 minutes last summer.
Numbers quickly became the next fascination for my son with hyperlexia, but he also has hypernumeracy so obviously his fascination is really intense. And trust me, it is some days, but definitely not as intense as it was when he was about three years old! Here's how this intense fascination with numbers can look in these kids:

  • Calendar and important dates, such as holidays and birthdays - In fact, J usually reminds me of birthdays so I don't ever miss them!
  • Time and clocks, including learning to tell the time at an early age
  • Temperature and thermostats
  • Calculators - We never left the house for years without a calculator or two in our hands!
  • Page numbers and table of contents - J never asks about the title of book. He always wants to know how many chapters and how many pages the book has!
  • Speed signs
  • Nutrition labels - J loves looking at how many grams or calories food provides.
  • Scores and timers at sporting events
  • Large numbers like zillions, trillions, and all the way up to a googol
  • Counting to large numbers over and over
  • Counting backwards
  • Skip counting, forwards and backwards, at an early age
  • Money
  • Watching movies or TV with timers showing - J used to refer to movies that he wanted to watch by their total length in hours, minutes, and seconds versus saying the title of the movie.
  • Roman numerals
  • Dot-to-dots
  • Tally marks
Another fascination common in kids with hyperlexia is with maps and geography. These kids love to learn about countries, capitals, and more! I suspect my younger brother could be hyperlexic and in addition to him reading at a super early age, he knew some of the most ridiculous facts and information about every single country in the world when he was little. Here are some of the topics that kids with hyperlexia often get fascinated with:

  • States/provinces and capitals
  • World capitals
  • Studying and reading atlases
Kids with hyperlexia also love to doodle. Like all the time. I've shared some of our favorite doodling materials before, but J's favorites have always been drawing with chalk, drawing on his Magna-Doodle, and doodling non-stop on paper. And actually, letting these kids doodle is a wonderful strategy to implement at home and/or in the classroom.

The periodic table is also extremely appealing to kids with hyperlexia. Why wouldn't it be with all of those letters and numbers all over it?!

Another fascination of kids with hyperlexia is space and planets. J absolutely loved learning everything he could about planets and space from about age 5 to 6. He would create constellations and planets out of random objects. He particularly loved labeling how hot or cold each planet is with their temperatures.

I also polled other parents of hyperlexic children in my Facebook support group about their children's intense fascinations and here were a few other topics that came up:

  • Mazes
  • Checklists
  • Flashcards
  • Polygons and shapes in general
  • Building signs
  • Logos
  • Atoms
  • Human body parts
  • Encyclopedia type books
  • Traffic lights
  • Famous people like presidents or composers
  • Fruits and vegetables - Chelsey shared how her son possesses "an encyclopedic memory of each and every one from around the world. He still likes to carry fruit everywhere and will often sneak it in to bed so he can cuddle it throughout the night."
  • Warning signs and stickers - Sandra shared how her hyperlexic child loves "warning signs (wet floor!) and warning stickers, like the ones on the car's sun visor containing the air bag warning."

How to Use These Fascinations to Help Kids with Hyperlexia

Sometimes it seems these kids can get stuck on one topic for a long time and I know how tiresome it can be to hear about the same things over and over again. Trust me, there are days when I cringe a bit when I hear J say, "I have a math question for you!" because I hear it approximately eleven billion times per day. Or how he lives and breathes all things traffic light related. But here's the thing...I will never ever try to discourage his fascinations. They are the key to engaging and connecting with him. I have already talked about how important obsessions in autism are for that reason.

So how does that translate into everyday life?

Well, here are a few things that I have done using J's fascinations:

  1. To encourage him to eat his lunch at school, I use a lunch box with a chalkboard in it. He can feel free to doodle if he likes, but I use it as a checklist of his lunch. I always write the menu down for him in order of importance. He always eats the food in the order it is presented in the checklist. Then he checks off the item once he finishes eating it.
  2. J goes through periods of time where he is absolutely terrified of bath time. We don't know what triggers it, but I have solved our bath time troubles (at least for now!) by handing him a translucent ruler and telling him to measure the bath water. Once it reaches the desired measurement, then I shut the water off. So we don't have bath time at our house we have 5 inch baths or 3 inch baths.
  3. We used J's love of numbers and winning games to encourage him to try something new such as sitting in a new chair at mealtimes.
  4. I ask my son hard math questions to connect with him and engage him with others when his body and mind become disorganized.
  5. To encourage my son to tell me about his school days, I ask him to list three things he did during the day instead of asking him a WH question. He loves lists so much that he is always motivated by them!
  6. Read books and come up with activities based around their fascinations. For instance, to tap into J's fascination with traffic lights, we do traffic light activities such as this suncatcher craft.
  7. When J started kindergarten, he still struggled with getting dressed by himself. Not because he didn't know how, but because he would not be motivated to do it. So I fixed that issue by timing him. I challenge him to try to put his socks on in less than 15 seconds or his shirt on in less than 30 seconds. Works awesome! And works great for almost anything he resists wanting to try. A point system also works well! I like to give him random points for trying new things and new foods. 
The bottom line is this...use their fascinations to encourage exploration of new topics or to work on new skills. Use them to develop social skills or speech or any other area that they may be struggling with. Use their unique ability to their advantage.

And always embrace their quirkiness. Our kids are incredible!

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A look at the intense fascinations of kids with hyperlexia from And Next Comes L
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