What is hyperlexia?
Well, that is a question that I first asked myself back in November when my son was first diagnosed with it. Since that time, I have been busy trying to learn as much about hyperlexia as I can. When I first wrote about my son's hyperlexia, I didn't feel like I had an adequate grasp on the concept. Sure, I knew what it looked like. But I really did not feel confident in my ability to define it. I'm definitely still learning about hyperlexia and will continue to do so, but as I share more and more photos on Instagram, it has become evident that other people are fascinated by hyperlexia and would like to learn more too.
Most people aren't aware of what hyperlexia is, let alone that there are potentially three types of hyperlexia. Gee, I didn't know myself until November. So I will describe hyperlexia in detail, including the signs of hyperlexia and the proposed three types of hyperlexia. I've included two free printables on hyperlexia as well.
What is Hyperlexia?
"A precocious, self-taught ability to read words which appears before age 5, and/or an intense fascination with letters, numbers, logos...[accompanied with] significant difficulty in understanding and developing oral language." - Source: Hyperlexia Pamphlet on judyanddavid.com
The Signs of Hyperlexia & Other Special Characteristics
The key signs of hyperlexia are:
- The precocious, self-taught ability to read words well above their age level, which appears before age 5
- A significant difficulty understanding verbal language
- An intense fascination with letters and/or numbers
There are plenty of additional signs, as you can see in the image below.
By following some of the Facebook groups on hyperlexia (see the resources here for more information), I have discovered that there is one other unique sign that doesn't seem to be listed anywhere. I refer to it as "air writing." My son loves to use his fingers to draw letters and write words in the air, on the table, and even on my leg. It looks like imaginary writing, but when I catch him doing it, I always ask, "What are you writing?" And he always gives me a specific word, number, or math question that he was writing. If you watch closely enough, then you can actually see him writing the shapes of those letters. Perhaps that's why I love this quote so much. It fits with my son's hyperlexia perfectly.
To get a better understanding of what hyperlexia looks like, you can read our personal account here and watch our hyperlexia video.
The 3 Types of Hyperlexia
Three types of hyperlexia have been proposed by Dr. Treffert. Type I is the bright, neurotypical children who learn to read early. Type II refers to the children with autism who seem to have hyperlexia as "a splinter skill." That's where my son falls. Type III includes children who read early, do not fall on the autism spectrum, and show autistic-like symptoms that they eventually outgrow. For further information on the three types of hyperlexia, I suggest reading this thorough article.
When I first began researching hyperlexia, I was surprised to learn about the possibility of three types of hyperlexia. In particular, I became fascinated with the third type. I believe my son truly falls into this category because he has had autistic-like traits that have disappeared (such as flapping). I wonder if the psychologist who diagnosed him is even aware of these three types. Regardless, my son's diagnoses place him as Type II and we, of course, are embracing it as such.
For more information on hyperlexia, please check out these other resources:
And don't forget to check out the hashtag #thisishyperlexia on social media for even more resources!