Wednesday, July 26, 2017

2 Things Every Hyperlexia Parent Should Know

I can still recall the rush of emotions I felt as I was handed one sheet of paper with the words autism, hyperlexia, and hypernumeracy on it. While relieved that we finally had some answers, I was even more perplexed because I didn't know what hyperlexia and hypernumeracy were.

It would be the first things I googled when I got home.

Then I stumbled upon picture after picture of children playing happily with their letter toys, spelling words that most kids wouldn't be able to spell until the age of ten or more.

Pictures that could easily have been of my own son.

Then tears streamed down my face because finally we knew what was going on with J and that was comforting to me.

Because for months (heck, make it years!), I read and compared different diagnostic labels and realized that none of them fit J quite right. He had characteristics of SPD and autism, but neither seemed like an accurate depiction of J's giftedness when it came to words and numbers. We now know he has diagnoses of all of these, so it makes sense why I was so utterly confused about where he fit, especially when coupled with the fact that I had never heard of hyperlexia prior to his assessment.

It still makes me mad that I never stumbled across the word hyperlexia during those early days of researching. I wonder how many other mothers or fathers are or have been in that same situation. It is part of the reason why I begin opening up about my son's hyperlexia in the first place.

I didn't want another mother or father to be stuck like we were. I wanted them to be able to easily find information on hyperlexia, even if they accidentally stumbled upon it via Instagram or a quick google search.

But like most parents with a fresh diagnosis, whether it is hyperlexia or autism, the next question is usually what now?

What is it I can do with this new knowledge to help my child?

Well, I quickly learned that there are two things that will make you a successful parent to a hyperlexic child. Two simple strategies that will work every single time with your child. Two ideas that you mustn't forget when it comes to helping your child.

Advice for parents of hyperlexic children from And Next Comes L

Best Advice for Hyperlexia Parents

If I could personally talk to every single parent after getting a hyperlexia diagnosis, then I would tell them the following two things.

1. Write it out

One of the first things I read about hyperlexia was this hyperlexia pamphlet. On it, it had the phrase, "when it doubt, write it out." And that is so so important to remember because, to the hyperlexic mind, if it isn't written down, it may not exist.

You need to take advantage of the fact that your child can read.

Make checklists, ask them questions by writing it down on a piece of paper, give them written cue cards to help with social situations, label the house with post-it notes...whatever method you choose, just write it down.

2. Use their obsessions or special interests

Most hyperlexic kids start out with an intense fascination with letters and words, but then move to different interests like planets, space, periodic table of elements, maps, or signs, just to name a few. I have noticed, many times, that some parents have been told, by professionals nonetheless, that they should try to discourage or redirect the child away from their obsessions.

That is just bad advice, in my opinion.

Unless that special interest is causing harm to the child, why discourage it?

How would I feel if someone had discouraged my love for music or Mary Higgins Clark books as a child?

It would feel as if someone was trying to fix me or change me.

And that is a horrible feeling isn't it?

In my experience, those special interests are the key to engaging and connecting with your child. 

It is the reason why I taught myself how to play Pokemon Trading Card Game when J first because interested in Pokemon. It is why he, and I in my purse or coat pocket, carried around multiple calculators everywhere we went. It is why I bought him books of challenging mazes and boxes after boxes of chalk. It is why I use math to connect with my son.

Use those intense interests to encourage life skills, such as potty training or getting dressed, and social skills because trust me, it will make everything easier for your child and you.

You can find more specific strategies for these important life and social skills in my book Beyond the Letters.

Beyond the Letters: Everyday strategies to help children with hyperlexia learn language and social skills (eBook)


Other Ideas You'll Love

This post is part of a monthly series called Parenting Children with Special Needs. This month's topic is best advice and tips and you can find the other posts regarding this topic below.
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3 comments:

  1. As parents, we are told to encourage our child's interests (think Lego or dinosaurs) until their interests (obsessions) don't match normal child behaviour then to discourage it. Personally, my son who is now 9 was definitely easier to parent when his interests were met. His current interests are maps, maps and more maps! He knows countries by flag, capital, language and area size.

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    1. Yes, exactly! When the interests don't seem to match the age, people are like well, that isn't right so discourage it. That makes me so angry to be honest.

      My younger brother, who I assume is hyperlexic as well, loved maps around that same age. I remember how he could name all the countries, describe their flags, tell you their population size and national languages, etc. He was obsessed with it all! Thankfully, my parents always encouraged his intense interests.

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