Thursday, September 21, 2023

5 Surprising & Lesser Known Characteristics of Hyperlexia

A closer look at some of the lesser known hyperlexia "symptoms" and traits.

People familiar with hyperlexia are usually familiar with the more common hyperlexia "symptoms" of early precocious reading, comprehension difficulties, intense letter fascinations, and whatnot. 

FYI, I prefer to use the terms traits or characteristics, which is why I put symptoms in quotations in the previous paragraph. Anyway...

There are certainly a lot of other traits that differentiate a hyperlexic learner from a non-hyperlexic one, many of which you can see here

However, there are a few other traits that don't get discussed as much, even though they're important for understanding the unique hyperlexic learning style. So here are 5 surprising (and lesser known!) characteristics of hyperlexia.

Other signs of hyperlexia to be aware of

5 Lesser Known Characteristics of Hyperlexia

I bet you've seen most - if not all! - of these traits in your hyperlexic child. They're quite common. But understanding these characteristics are important if you want to best support your child.

1. Air writing is common among hyperlexic children

Maybe you've seen your hyperlexic child "write" words or "draw" letters in the air before. 

This air writing is so common that I've officially declared it a missing trait from the list of hyperlexia signs. I can just do that, right? 

There are lots of reasons why hyperlexic kids do air writing, which I've discussed in depth here and on Instagram

It's worth noting that air writing isn't something to discourage. It is incredibly beneficial for hyperlexic learners to engage in air writing.

Air writing is common in hyperlexia

2. Hyperlexics learn language via gestalt processing

Gestalt processing is a just a fancy way of saying someone learns language in chunks, which explains why many hyperlexic children have echolalic speech. 

You can read more about gestalt learning and hyperlexia here and learn more about what it means to be a gestalt learner.

But here are a few additional resources to help you learn more about this topic:

Hyperlexics learn language via gestalt processing

3. Auditory processing delays are common

Once you have a better understanding of their gestalt processing of language (did you check out those resources yet??), you can see why hyperlexic kids might also struggle with auditory processing. Especially when you factor in the issues that many of them have with comprehension and WH questions as well. No wonder it's so tricky to process spoken language for them!

You've probably noticed these auditory processing issues in your hyperlexic child before... 

Perhaps you ask them a question and they either don't respond or they give an automatic response of "Huh?" or "I don't know." They might give this default response even when it is a question they clearly know the answer to. Or they might say these phrases and then answer correctly afterwards.

As Adkins et al. mention in Hyperlexia: Therapy that Works Manual, "Many children with hyperlexia have difficulty processing what people say to them."

This automatic response of "I don't know" is usually a coping mechanism hyperlexic kids use to buy themselves time to process and make sense of what was being said to them. 

I know my son did this all the time and people mistakenly assumed he didn't know the answer because he would say "I don't know." 

What you can do is work on teaching your child a script along the lines of "Let me think..." or "Give me a second" to replace the default "I don't know."

Another way to help with auditory processing is to pair the auditory with the visual by writing things down. So that means turning on closed captioning when watching TV, for instance.

You can get more auditory processing strategies for hyperlexia here.

Auditory processing challenges are common in hyperlexia

4. Pronoun reversals

You might notice that your hyperlexic child speaks in third person or mixes up pronouns, especially during the preschool and early elementary years. That's what I mean when I say pronoun reversals.

But just think about how complex pronouns are. They're vague and require inferencing skills. I mean sometimes "you" can refer to you (pointing aggressively at the screen right at you) and other times it can refer to "me." But others will use "she" and "her" to refer to me. Ugh, English is so hard!

However, the issues with pronouns being mixed up has to do with the fact that they're gestalt language processors. They learn language in chunks so they often echo back the chunks of language that they hear exactly as they first heard them. 

So while pronoun reversals are a common trait among hyperlexic kids, it's really nothing more than them repeating those scripts that they hear. 

You can read more about pronoun reversals here.

Pronoun reversals are common in hyperlexia

5. Many hyperlexic children have unusual fears

We're talking fears of door knobs, anything that crawls, animated characters, the Happy Birthday song...a lot of these things can cause major anxiety for hyperlexic kids. 

So if your child has a somewhat unusual fear, then you might be a bit reassured knowing that your child isn't alone. 

There's a reason why I have lots of anxiety resources here on the blog after all.

Unusual fears are common in hyperlexia

A Recap of the Lesser Known Characteristics of Hyperlexia

People are always surprised to learn about the above characteristics. 

I mean you've likely noticed the air writing, but didn't know it necessarily had a name, a purpose, or just how common it is among these kids. 

Or maybe you didn't realize how common anxiety and unusual fears were with hyperlexic kids.

Or that auditory processing challenges were common.

I think, of all of these characteristics though, the one that people find the most interesting is the gestalt language processing piece. It often explains so many things you notice with hyperlexic learners (e.g., those pronoun reversals!) so it's definitely worth diving into and learning more. I'd start with these resources, if you'd like to learn more.

After reading through all of these, I bet you recognize most of these characteristics of hyperlexia in your own child. Which one surprised you the most?

5 lesser known characteristics of hyperlexia

5 lesser known traits of hyperlexia

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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

10 Common Interests for Hyperlexic Kids

Wondering what some of the most common interests for hyperlexic kids are and what your child might move to next? This list can help!

Hyperlexic kids have intense passions or interests right from toddlerhood. 

Interests that can last for years, not just a month or two. 

These interests can also be so intense that it might seem as if your child will never move on to anything else. And that they'll only ever be interested in this one thing.

But they do eventually move on. 

Maybe they move to geography or flags or numbers next. Then they do that for a year or two. 

Or maybe they're still in the letter phase and you are wondering what could possibly come next after their fascination in letters. 

Maybe you just want to know what could come next. That way you can get a head start on learning about those specific topics. 

Basically, you want to be prepared. You know, so you can keep up with them if they do move to something else on this list that you know next to nothing about. Case in point: those languages they might teach themselves that you don't speak...

Anyway, that's where this list of common interests for hyperlexic kids comes in. It will give you an idea of what interests may lay ahead for your hyperlexic child. It also gives you suggestions of topics that you could introduce your child to next. 

Common interests for hyperlexic kids

Hyperlexic kids have intense passions or interests that can last for many years

10 Common Interests for Hyperlexic Kids

The following list includes the most common interests reported among hyperlexic kids. They are interests that most hyperlexic kids explore at some point.

Now, please keep in mind that the following list is by no means exhaustive. There are obviously lots of other interests that your hyperlexic child might gravitate towards including presidents, music, warning signs, traffic lights, colors, or all things video games related. 

Also, please remember that if your hyperlexic child doesn't show interest in some of these other interests, that doesn't make them any less hyperlexic. For instance, my son was never interested in the Russian alphabet, even though it is a super popular interest for other hyperlexic kids, and he is still 100% hyperlexic.

So having said that, let's take a look at what the most common interests for hyperlexic kids are. They include:

1. Letters

The first interest for most - if not all - hyperlexic kids would be letters. It's something they pick up on naturally and super early. Usually well before age two (see hyperlexia milestones for more info). 

This interest may include learning the alphabet in different languages (another interest we'll discuss in a bit). 

An interest in letters may also eventually evolve into an interest in fonts or typography.

The first interest for most - if not all - hyperlexic learners would be letters

2. Numbers & Math

Usually the next interest that appears early on is an interest in numbers and math. 

Sometimes this interest even takes over letters - hello, hypernumeracy

Their favorite toy is might be a calculator (or two or three).

These kids can quickly figure out patterns and relationships between numbers and begin to do math well above what would be expected for their age. 

As they grow, this interest might lead to an interest in Roman numerals, calendars, fractions, logic problems, or more complex math.

Sometimes a hyperlexic child's interest in numbers and math takes over letters. It's possible that they might have hypernumeracy as well.

3. Geography & Maps

After letters and numbers, many move to geography and maps next. 

They'll quickly learn all the names of the countries, what the shapes of those countries are, where they're located in the world, their capital cities...really anything about geography! 

4. Flags

Another popular interest is flags, which isn't surprising given how many gravitate towards geography and maps. 

There are many young hyperlexic preschoolers who can identify and name hundreds of different flags from around the world. It's really amazing!

Many hyperlexic kids have an interest in geography, maps, and flags

5. Logos

Many hyperlexic kids love logos. Two popular favorites being the Pixar logo and the 20th Century Fox logo. 

Car brand logos are also a favorite for these kids. 

There's just something about logos and brands that appeal to our hyperlexic learners (probably all those letters!). 

You can often find these kids recreating logos using their alphabet toys as well.

6. Languages

Remember how I said the interest in letters can often mean learning the alphabet in different languages? Well, that's just the starting point for many hyperlexic kids! 

Many of them will go on to teach themselves a variety of languages. Popular choices include Russian, Arabic, or Korean. I would said Russian is likely the most popular one of the bunch though!

Many hyperlexic kids will go on to learn a variety of languages

7. Outer Space

Another common interest for hyperlexic kids is learning about the solar system and planets. There's just something about outer space that's appealing to them. 

My word of advice: be prepared to have a favorite moon of Jupiter because they'll definitely ask you at some point which one you like. 

8. The Periodic Table

One of the reasons why I think the periodic table is a common interest for hyperlexic kids is because of all the letters and numbers that are included on it.

Regardless, hyperlexic kids love learning about the periodic table so don't be surprised if your hyperlexic child moves to this interest next.

9. Shapes

Many young hyperlexic kids are fascinated by shapes and we're not talking about just triangles and squares here. We're talking dodecahedrons and other complex shapes. This interest naturally stems from the interest in math.

10. Anatomy

Another common interest is anatomy. Many hyperlexic kids love to learn about the human body, including the different body systems, the functions of organs, and so on. So be prepared to hear facts about the human body for quite some time!

Common interests for kids with hyperlexia

So what do you think of this list of common interests for hyperlexic kids? Has your hyperlexic child shown an interest in almost all of these interests as well? I bet they at least checked a few boxes off though!

Common interests for hyperlexic kids

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Tuesday, September 19, 2023

How to Tell if a Non-Speaking Toddler Might be Hyperlexic & Reading

Do you suspect that your non-speaking toddler or preschooler is hyperlexic, but aren't sure if they're actually reading yet? Here's how to tell if a non-speaking toddler might be hyperlexic and reading.

When a toddler or preschooler can communicate using spoken words, it's pretty easy to determine whether or not they can read. After all, you can hear them verbalize the words they see while reading. 

But how can you tell if a non-speaking toddler might actually be reading or decoding? It can be a bit trickier to determine.

However, perhaps you've already noticed many of the other telltale traits of hyperlexia in toddlerhood, but you're just not 100% sure if your child is actually reading or not yet.

And you already know that the early reading ability is a key trait of hyperlexia. This trait has to be present in order for your child to be considered hyperlexic. 

So how do you know if your child is actually reading or not?

Well, I imagine you already have a strong suspicion that your child is hyperlexic and reading. There's a reason you're here reading this after all.

So we're going to take a look at a few different ways to know if they're able to decode and read that don't rely on using spoken words. Then hopefully you can have a better idea of whether or not your non-speaking toddler might indeed be hyperlexic and reading.

How to tell if a non-speaking toddler might be hyperlexic and reading

4 Ways to Know if a Non-Speaking Toddler Might be Hyperlexic & Reading

Based on conversations with other families over the years, here are some of the ways in which parents discovered that their non-speaking child was hyperlexic and able to read.

1. They write out words they've only ever seen printed

Hyperlexic children are known for writing out words using alphabet magnets, toys, and blocks. 

Those words might be simple nouns, their name, or words they see or hear around them. Sometimes those words might be long or complicated, such as dinosaur name, or even a brand name, such as Huawei or Pixar. They might even write out multi-word phrases.

Hyperlexic children are known for writing out words using alphabet magnets, toys, and blocks

But sometimes they'll write out words they've only ever seen printed in a book, on TV, in captions, on road signs, or elsewhere around them.

So if you notice your non-speaking child writing out words you know they've only seen printed, then that's a good sign that they might be reading and could be hyperlexic.

If you notice your non-speaking child writing out words you know they've only seen printed, then that's a good sign that they might be reading and could be hyperlexic

2. They can correctly point to words that you ask them to

You might already suspect that your child can read so let's say you write down some words or grab a set of flashcards. 

What happens when you ask your child to point to the card that says a specific word?

Can they point to the correct word?

Well, that's exactly how many families have discovered that their non-speaking child can in fact read. 

Many families have discovered that their non-speaking child can in fact read by asking the child to point to the written words that they say

It's also how many families have noticed the scope of their hyperlexic child's reading abilities, regardless of whether they are non-speaking or not. I know I quizzed my son this way too because I had to make sure what I was witnessing applied to other words as well (it did, obviously).

The words you ask them to point to could be unfamiliar words, long and complex words, or even nonsense words. Doesn't matter. The child will likely still point to the correct words that you ask them to point out.

3. They can bypass parental controls that rely on being able to read

Many apps designed for kids have a parental control feature that relies on being able to read or solve a simple math equation before they can access the settings. 

Well, oftentimes, young hyperlexic children can read those and enter the correct answer. Sometimes even in different languages!

So if you've noticed that your child can access settings that are locked behind some kind of parental control feature, there's a good chance they're able to read what it said. After all, they were able to complete the basic instructions to bypass it...

It's not uncommon for hyperlexic kids to bypass parent controls on apps

4. They tap on words in a book or get upset if something is skipped or said incorrectly

When you're tired and want to quickly read through a book with your child, you might be tempted to skip over some words or pages to speed things along. (We all do it. Don't deny it.) Well, that might work with neurotypical toddlers or preschoolers. 

However, you can't get away with that when reading with a hyperlexic toddler who can follow all the words and read along...

If you say a word incorrectly or skip a word or page, a hyperlexic child might get upset, flip back a page, and/or tap on words to make sure you read absolutely everything on the page.

If you say a word incorrectly or skip a word or page, a hyperlexic child might get upset

Ways to know if a non-speaking toddler might be hyperlexic and reading

Final Notes on Discovering Your Non-Speaking Child's Hyperlexia & Reading Ability

Often, many parents have a gut feeling that their non-speaking child is indeed reading. They just "know," in their heart, that the child is likely hyperlexic. I'm a big believer in trusting your gut.

However, it's also nice to have more concrete evidence (and validation!), whether that's with words spelled out of letter magnets on the fridge or quizzing your child to see if they can point to the correct words. That's how many families have discovered their child's reading ability.

It's also worth noting that that concrete evidence is what will be useful to bring up in appointments with professionals when discussing hyperlexia. So it's good to know what to watch for.

Obviously, there are other things that you may have noticed along the way that aren't on this list. 

The point here, though, was to give you an idea of how other families have discovered that their non-speaking toddler was hyperlexic and reading. That way it could be helpful to you as you navigate this (pretty wild!) journey.

How to tell if a non-speaking toddler might be hyperlexic and reading

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Monday, September 18, 2023

10+ Diagnoses a Hyperlexic Child Might Have (Besides Autism)

Here are 10+ common diagnoses a hyperlexic child might have (besides autism). They might even receive these diagnoses instead of the label of hyperlexia itself.

Some of the most common questions that I get about the hyperlexia "diagnosis" are regarding its relationship with autism. Questions such as:

  • Is hyperlexia always diagnosed with autism?
  • Can you have hyperlexia and not be autistic?
  • How is hyperlexia different than autism?

While they're fair questions to ask, I'll be honest, I do question the intentions behind some of these questions as it often seems parents are reluctant or even in denial that their child might indeed be autistic. But that's a whole other beast to tackle for another post on another day.

Instead, let's focus on the question of whether or not hyperlexia is always identified or diagnosed with autism and take a look at some other diagnoses a hyperlexic child might have. 

10+ diagnoses a hyperlexic child might have besides autism

10+ Other Diagnoses A Hyperlexic Child Might Have

First things first, since hyperlexia isn't a standalone diagnosis, you can't receive it as an official "diagnosis" on its own.

Instead, it will often be diagnosed (or some might argue misdiagnosed), identified alongside, or lumped in with another diagnosis. 

Hyperlexia isn't a standalone diagnosis

In some cases, a hyperlexic child might receive one of these other diagnoses in place of the label of hyperlexia. 

Here are some of the possible diagnoses that they might receive:

  • Autism (including Asperger's which is now just diagnosed as autism)
  • Specific language impairment or a language disorder such as mixed receptive-expressive language disorder or expressive language disorder
  • Nonverbal learning disability
  • Pervasive developmental disorder
  • Social communication disorder, such as semantic/pragmatic disorder

For most hyperlexic kids, their hyperlexia will be identified alongside an autism diagnosis. It's not surprising that this is the case as there's a strong link between the two. In fact, 84% of hyperlexics are either autistic or have several autistic features (source). 

For most hyperlexic kids, their hyperlexia will be identified alongside autism

84% of individuals who are hyperlexic are either autistic or have several autistic features

In addition to some of the diagnoses above, a hyperlexic child might have other co-occurring conditions such as:

  • ADHD
  • Sensory processing disorder or sensory integration dysfunction
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Seizure disorder
  • Tourette's Syndrome
  • Dyspraxia
  • Anxiety

Now obviously this list isn't exhaustive. There are a lot of other possible diagnoses and conditions that a hyperlexic child might have. These are just some of the more common possibilities.

Other diagnoses a hyperlexic child might have

Regardless of what other conditions or diagnoses a hyperlexic individual has been identified with, it's still important to identify the hyperlexia piece. Their hyperlexia needs to be recognized as it's a key part of who they are and how they learn.

It's important to identify hyperlexia

Adkins et al. write that we need to still "identify children with hyperlexia if they have other diagnoses or conditions" because "these children learn primarily through reading, so the therapeutic and educational programs that we devise for them must take their reading skills into account." (source: Hyperlexia: Therapy that Works manual).

Let me stress that again. 

Identifying their hyperlexia is just as important as identifying their autism or their OCD because it tells you so much about how they learn and how their brain works. 

Identifying a hyperlexic child is just as important as identifying them as autistic or otherwise neurodivergent

That means you might have to keep pushing until their hyperlexia is recognized, especially when so many professionals or specialists are quick to disregard or dismiss your very valid concerns about the possibility of hyperlexia. And yes, this does happen (see #1 on this list).

So to answer the question "is hyperlexia always diagnosed with autism?", the answer is no. As you can see, there are lots of other diagnoses they might be identified with.

To learn more about the "diagnosis" of hyperlexia, you might find this article helpful. You can also learn more about how hyperlexia is identified here.

A list of diagnoses or conditions that hyperlexic kids can also be identified with

Is hyperlexia always diagnosed with autism? Here are 10+ diagnoses a hyperlexic child might have (besides autism)

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