Wednesday, March 31, 2021

How High Interest Books Boost Reading Comprehension

How using high interest books can boost reading comprehension in hyperlexic kids.

I know you're wondering how to improve your hyperlexic child's reading comprehension skills. I mean, why else would you be here, right?

Comprehension is definitely an area that our hyperlexic kids need some extra support with, especially as they get into the higher grades and the texts become harder. Grade four seems to be the key turning point. See these important hyperlexia milestones for more information.

So what can you do to build good reading comprehension skills with hyperlexic kids? Is there an easy way to do it?

Well, you can start by using high interest books to boost reading comprehension. Below you'll learn how something as simple as selecting a high interest reading material can drastically impact a child's comprehension skills.

Hyperlexia and reading comprehension: how using high interest books can boost reading comprehension skills

High Interest Books: What Does that Mean?

A high interest book means selecting a reading material that is of high interest to the child, just like the name implies. It includes books that are on topics that are related to your child's interests. It also includes certain book types or formats. For instance, if your kid prefers graphic novels over chapter books. Basically, a high interest book is something that is interesting and appealing to your child.

And just to clarify, we're not discussing reading level difficulty or anything here. 

Instead we're focusing purely on selecting books that will be the most appealing to your child during a reading session.

So How Do High Interest Books Affect Reading Comprehension Skills?

There are two ways in which high interest books affect your hyperlexic child's reading comprehension skills and it has to do with:

  • Reading motivation
  • Better background knowledge and schema
We'll dive deeper into these two points below and how they help build good reading comprehension skills.

1. High Interest Books Lead to an Increase in Reading Motivation and Better Buy-in

In the book Drawing a Blank, Emily Iland writes, "the reader must also be motivated to read and interested in the material." That means that your child is more likely to be interested in reading a book when it's about a topic that they're actually interested in and motivated to read. You're probably the same way, right? I mean it just makes sense that our motivation to read enhances text comprehension.

As Lester (2003) points out in her thesis on comprehension in hyperlexia, "children need to be motivated and interested in order to use strategies for learning. Interest in a topic has been shown to increase a child's comprehension." 

So we know that high interest means better comprehension, which is exactly what Lester found. She notes that, "students with hyperlexia had better comprehension on more difficult reading passages with high interest compared to their low interest passages...[suggesting] that when motivation to comprehend is very high, these students can focus enough to understand what they are reading." (source)

Ostrolenk et al. (2017) highlighted similar in their review of the hyperlexia literature, pointing out that "reading comprehension is improved in autistic children when their interests are embedded in text."

At this point, it's pretty clear that using books based on your child's interests creates better buy-in (aka they're more likely to want to read it). And better buy-in leads to better comprehension.

So if you want to work on improving your hyperlexic child's comprehension, then always start by picking a book that is of high interest and motivating for them to read. 

If they're simply not interested in reading it, then how can you expect them to want to practice comprehension strategies or answer questions about the text? So picking a book on a topic that they're interested in is just one of those effective comprehension strategies.

2. High Interest Books Mean Better Background Knowledge, Which Means Better Comprehension

Another reason why you want to use books that are related to your child's interest has to do with schema and background knowledge. Something that's really important when it comes to comprehension. 

The book Drawing a Blank points out that "background knowledge is another important part of understanding what is read." 

Even if your general reading comprehension is good, it is much harder to understand a text when you don't have some kind of prior knowledge about what it's about. Again, you're probably the same way, right?

Interestingly enough, it's even been suggested that, "the poor comprehension of children with hyperlexia may be due in part to a lack of schema for topics read or difficulties activating relevant schema." (Lester, 2003), which I think is a fascinating theory.

Regardless, increasing schema and background knowledge leads to better comprehension for all readers, not just hyperlexic ones.

In fact, "many studies have shown that prior knowledge or schemata influence a reader's comprehension." (Lester, 2003)

Now, your hyperlexic child likely already has good background knowledge on quite a few subjects already, whether that's related to planets and their moons, the periodic table, countries of the world, previous US presidents, or the entire history of the video game industry. Their comprehension for books on these subjects will be much higher because they have the schema to reference and draw from while they read.

As a side note...I think this could be the reason why there are so many parents of hyperlexic children who are adamant that their child's reading comprehension is just fine. They've only checked comprehension on these high interest books and not the low interest ones. So I'd be curious to see what happens when they swap that book for something that is of low interest and/or that the child has minimal background knowledge on. But anyway that's not the focus here...

To recap, high interest books often mean better background knowledge and schema, which, in turn, means better comprehension.

So naturally you'll see better comprehension from our hyperlexic readers when they have background knowledge on the subject.

Hopefully you can now see why schema and background knowledge are necessary for good reading comprehension skills. You can learn more about how to build schema here.

Hyperlexia and reading comprehension: how using high interest books can boost reading comprehension skills

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Friday, March 19, 2021

Types of Neurodivergence

A list of some types of neurodivergence and a closer look at what conditions, disabilities, and/or differences are considered neurodivergent.

Some of the neurodiversity terms like neurodiverse and neurodivergent can be quite confusing. 

And it can also be hard to know what's all included under the neurodiversity umbrella. Most people already know that it includes autism, ADHD, and dyspraxia, for instance, but it can also include so many other conditions and brain differences.

That's why I put together this list of types of neurodivergence so you can have a better sense of what's all included. Hint: basically anything that isn't a neurotypical brain is considered a form of neurodivergence.

What's considered neurodivergent? Here's a list of some types of neurodivergence.

So...What Does Neurodivergence Mean?

Neurodivergence can be defined as "the state of being neurodivergent." (source) Basically, any brain that diverges from the norm falls under the umbrella of neurodivergence. So everything except the neurotypical brain is included here.

Please read here for more information from the individual who coined the term neurodivergent to learn more.

Types of Neurodivergence

Please note that this list is by no means complete. 

I know there are likely lots missing from this list, but the idea here is to give you a sense of what can be included. Remember any brain that diverges from the norm can be considered a type of neurodivergence.

So just because something's not on this list below, doesn't mean it isn't a type of neurodivergence. It just means that I might not know about it and are unfamiliar with it (after all, I didn't know about hyperlexia until 2014). 

Here are some types of neurodivergence:

  • Autism
  • Hyperlexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Dysgraphia
  • Synesthesia
  • Tourette Syndrome
  • Tic disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Epilepsy
  • Seizure disorders
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Developmental language disorders
  • Developmental coordination disorders
  • Specific learning difficulties, differences, and disabilities
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Down Syndrome
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Bipolar
  • Personality disorders
  • Giftedness
  • Sensory integration/processing disorder
  • Depression
  • Auditory processing disorder
  • Irlen Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Apraxia
  • Mental illnesses
  • Parkinson's
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Disorders of the corpus callosum (agenesis or dysgenesis)

Other Neurodiversity Resources You'll Love

Neurodiversity Definitions & Terms You Should Know

Activities for Neurodiversity Celebration Week

Neurodiversity & Autism Book Lists

What's considered neurodivergent? Here's a list of some types of neurodivergence.

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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Neurodiversity Definitions & Terms You Should Know

What is neurodiversity? What is neurodivergent? What is neurodiverse? How do you define neurotypical? Below you will find definitions and meanings for each of these neurodiversity terms.

You've probably seen the words neurodiversity, neurodivergent, neurodiverse, and neurotypical before. 

Maybe you've wondered what these terms mean or how to know which terms to use and when. Like are you supposed to say neurodivergent or neurodiverse? 

It can be very confusing for sure, especially when they all contain the same root word of neuro.

So I'm going to provide definitions for the words neurodiversity, neurodivergent, neurodiverse, and neurotypical in hopes that you can better understand their meanings and use them correctly. I've tried to keep the definitions as simple as possible without jargon or fancy words.

Definition of neurodiversity, neurodivergent, neurodiverse, and neurotypical

Neurodiversity Definition

Neurodiversity refers to the diversity of human brains and the wide variety of individual differences in brain functioning. 

Judy Singer coined the term neurodiversity in the late 1990s. 

Please note that the term neurodiversity is different than the terms neurodiversity paradigm (a perspective or philosophy) and Neurodiversity Movement (a social justice movement).

Neurodivergent Definition

The term neurodivergent is used to refer to an individual person whose brain functions in ways that are different than what's considered "normal" and includes people with developmental, individual, psychiatric, or learning disabilities.

Since neurodivergent is the opposite of neurotypical, the term can be used to describe anyone who has a brain that develops atypically, whether they are autistic, hyperlexic, dyslexic, or have some other type of neurodivergence such as ADHD, Tourette's, or intellectual disabilities. Here's a list of types of neurodivergence.

So basically it refers to someone with a differently wired brain.

The term was coined by Neurodivergent K of Radical Neurodivergence Speaking. Here's a short PSA from the individual who coined the term.

Neurodiverse Definition

The term neurodiverse is used to describe a group of people - not an individual person - where at least one or more people in the group have different styles of brain functioning or brain types.

Neurodiverse is often used incorrectly (I know I've been guilty of that!) to refer to an individual person (e.g., a neurodiverse child). However, the correct term to describe an individual is actually the term neurodivergent. 

The easiest way to keep these two terms straight, in my opinion, is to remember that neurodiverse is plural, while neurodivergent is singular. Remember, individuals are not groups so they cannot be neurodiverse. They can only be neurodivergent.

Neurotypical Definition

Neurotypical refers to an individual whose brain develops typically and functions in ways that are deemed "normal." The term can be used as a both an adjective or as a noun.

A lot of people assume neurotypical just means non-autistic, but that's incorrect. Instead, neurotypical is the opposite of neurodivergent. 

So to Recap...

  • Use the term neurodiversity when describing the natural diversity of human brains
  • Use the term neurodiversity paradigm when referring to the philosophy of neurodiversity
  • Use the term Neurodiversity Movement when referring to the social justice and civil rights movement
  • Use the terms neurotypical or neurodivergent when describing an individual person
  • Use the term neurodiverse when referring to a group of people
A list of common neurodiversity terms and their definitions

Other Neurodiversity Resources You'll Love

Free Neurodiversity Ebooks

Free Neurodiversity Infinity Symbol Coloring Pages

Types of Neurodivergence

What is neurodiversity? What does neurodivergent mean? How about neurodiverse and neurotypical? Here's a list of common neurodiversity terms and their definitions

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Tuesday, March 16, 2021

10 Activities for Neurodiversity Celebration Week

Looking for activities for Neurodiversity Celebration Week? Try these ideas, printables, and resources.

Most people already know about Autism Acceptance Month and day. 

And maybe you've heard of Autistic Pride Day

But you may or may not have heard of Neurodiversity Celebration Week. I personally didn't know what it was until very recently.

So what is Neurodiversity Celebration Week? And how can you participate?

Below you'll learn more about this weeklong celebration and find 10 Neurodiversity Celebration Week activity ideas.

Activities, printables, and resources for participating in Neurodiversity Celebration Week

What is Neurodiversity Celebration Week?

Neurodiversity Celebration Week is exactly what it sounds like. It's a week long event and international campaign to celebrate what neurodiversity is all about and how we can "recognise, nurture and celebrate the many strengths and talents of being neurodiverse." (source

It's about creating a more inclusive and supportive environment for our neurodiverse children and students while challenging stereotypes, myths, and misconceptions about autism, learning differences, and neurodiversity.

Some other quick facts about Neurodiversity Celebration Week:

  • It takes place in March. This year's dates are March 15-21, 2021.
  • It was founded by UN Young Leader Siena Castellon in 2018 when she was only 16 years old.

You can learn more about Neurodiversity Celebration Week here.

10 Neurodiversity Celebration Week Activities

Now that you know a bit more about what this week is all about, here are some fun activity ideas, printables, and resources to help you celebrate.

1. Decorate and color these free printable neurodiversity infinity symbol coloring pages and hang them up around your classroom or in your house.

2. Read some picture books about autism, ADHD, dyslexia, learning differences, or other forms of neurodiversity.

3. Start learning more about neurodiversity yourself with these free neurodiversity ebooks. There's also a free picture book for kids on this list. Or start reading a book from one of my other themed book lists.

4. Use these free Neurodiversity Celebration Week powerpoint presentations to teach your kids about neurodiversity or hold a school assembly.

5. Check out the school resources section on the Neurodiversity Celebration Week official website. They have tons of free resources such as fact sheets, posters, Powerpoint Presentations, a comic book, and more. They also have some Spanish resources.

6. Watch the Amazing Things Happen video with your kids.

7. Create neurodiversity word art clouds using words that relate to neurodiversity. Make it brain or infinity symbol shaped.

8. Play some neurodiversity themed Kahoot! games from Tiimo App. My kids play Kahoot! games all the time as part of their online learning this year and they love them. Here you will find a bunch of neurodiversity, autism, and ADHD myth busting themed ones.

9. Draw and design your own neurodiversity poster that celebrates what it means to be neurodivergent.

10. Grab a copy of the free neurodivergent narwhals coloring page from Neurodiversity Library to color.

Other Neurodiversity Related Resources You'll Love

Autism Resources for Parents

Hyperlexia & Hypernumeracy Resources

ADHD Resources for Parents

Activities, printables, and resources for participating in Neurodiversity Celebration Week

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Thursday, March 11, 2021

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Choosing a School for Your Hyperlexic Child

Wondering how to choose a school for your hyperlexic child? Here are some things to consider when picking the right school for your child.

Picking the right school for a hyperlexic child may seem like a daunting task. 

You're not sure if they're emotionally or socially ready even though academically you know they are. 

So naturally, you have concerns about potential boredom. You wonder how on earth you will keep them challenged. I mean it's not every day you send a kid off to school who's known their letters and how to read for a handful of years already...

You might also wonder if the school is familiar with hyperlexia or not and whether they can even adequately support your child's needs.

Then you have questions about the actual educational environment or setting itself. Is there a school geared towards hyperlexic kids? Would Montessori be a good fit? What about a dual language or immersion program? Maybe I should do another year of preschool. Or should I just homeschool them? 

It's difficult to determine what the "right" fit will be when your child doesn't quite follow the traditional developmental path of childhood. 

So how do you go about picking the right school or educational setting for a hyperlexic child? That's what we'll be exploring below (in case that wasn't obvious by now).

How to pick the right school for your child with hyperlexia

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Picking the Right School for Your Hyperlexic Child

Now, I'm not going to tell you exactly what school will be the best fit because you and I both know that every child and family is unique. What works for my kid isn't necessarily going to work for yours.

Instead, I'm going to share 3 important things to keep in mind that will help guide you as you make your decision.

1. Hyperlexic children can thrive in all sorts of different school settings "as long as their reading abilities are recognized and used to help them learn." (Hyperlexia: Therapy that Works)

I cannot emphasize this point enough. 

If the school, teachers, and/or other relevant support staff are disregarding your child's reading skills, then it's not going to be the right fit for your child. 

Your child is likely going to feel frustrated or bored if their strengths aren't acknowledged and recognized. And it will be your job, as the parent, to make sure your child's abilities and needs are well understood (see the next point).

2. You, as a parent, play an active role in your hyperlexic child's success at school, regardless of the setting you choose.

I can almost guarantee your child's school hasn't heard of hyperlexia before so it will be on you to educate them about it. 

You need to be actively involved in helping the teachers and staff understand the hyperlexic learning profile and your child's unique needs. That might mean passing along one of these useful hyperlexia PDFs to them or it might mean fighting with the school board to make sure your child can get an IEP or a classroom aide (been there, done that).

3. Evaluate year-by-year to make sure it's still the right fit based on your hyperlexic child's current needs.

Every year is different and presents a new set of challenges. So what worked in kindergarten might not work in grade two or four or eight. 

It's totally okay to scrap your plan and switch to a different school or program if it means that your child's needs are better met.

So To Recap...

The type of educational setting doesn't really matter here. Instead, it's the supports and accommodations that are put in place, the recognition of your child's strengths and abilities, and an active and open collaboration between you and the school that ultimately makes the difference for your child's success.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

What's the Difference Between Hyperlexia & Autism?

A look at what the key difference between hyperlexia and autism is.

When you read through the list of hyperlexia traits and then through the list of autism traits, you'll find a lot of similarities. 

There are definitely a lot of overlapping characteristics between the two. 

So much so that I often get asked, "Is hyperlexia a form of autism?

It's important to note while hyperlexia and autism do usually go hand-in-hand, they are indeed different enough to warrant their own labels or diagnoses.

So let's discuss what the main difference between hyperlexia and autism is.

Hyperlexia and autism: what's the difference?

Hyperlexia vs. Autism: What's the Difference?

If you compare the lists of autism and hyperlexia traits, there is one trait that you won't see listed as a sign of autism. 

And that trait has to do with reading.

See, the key difference between hyperlexia and autism is the precocious self-taught ability to read. This ability is the hallmark of hyperlexia and is not a specific autism trait. 

So if you don't see this precocious reading ability, then they're not hyperlexic.

It's also important to note that this ability to read is not taught. They simply start reading on their own one day. 

So if you taught your child to read in any way, then they're likely not hyperlexic. 

Now having said all that...

There are many who consider hyperlexia to be a savant or splinter skill of autism versus its own standalone "thing," for lack of a better word. But please note that there is a lot of disagreement among experts and in the research (see the hyperlexia FAQs for more discussion on this topic). 

So some might argue that the difference between the two is that hyperlexia is an offshoot of autism versus something separate. 

But either way, they'll still highlight and point out that the precocious reading ability is what differentiates a hyperlexic autistic from an autistic without hyperlexia.

Other Hyperlexia Resources You'll Love

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

5 Free Hyperlexia PDF Resources

Hyperlexia & Air Writing: What You Need to Know

What's the difference between hyperlexia and autism?

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Tuesday, February 09, 2021

40 Language Skills that Hyperlexic Kids Might Need Support With

Hyperlexia and language development: a closer look at 40 language skills that hyperlexic kids might need some extra support with.

Hyperlexic kids learn language differently, learning via gestalt processing of language (that is, learning language in chunks) and relying heavily on echolalia to communicate and express themselves.

It can actually be "helpful to think of [a hyperlexic individual] as being like an English Language Learner in his or her native language" (Iland, 2011) since the language challenges that hyperlexic kids face are quite similar to those of English Language Learners. 

In other words, hyperlexic kids need to be taught language as if they are learning a second language. 

So it's not surprising that, when it comes to language skills, there are a lot of areas that they might need some extra support and practice with. 

The language challenges generally include (source):

  • "Understanding and using language functionally," in terms of "processing, formulating, and expressing oneself"
  • "Comprehending the intentions of others"

  • "Being able to convey one's own intentions"

But let's take it one step further and break it down into more specific skills and areas that you can target and address because knowing these specific skills gives you an idea of areas that your hyperlexic kid might need extra support and practice with. 

They are skills that you can target at home, during speech therapy, or even with certain IEP accommodations in place in the classroom. 

And they are skills that, if worked on, can also make a huge difference in their overall comprehension of language.

Please keep in mind that there will be a wide variety of abilities here with hyperlexic individuals and some of these skills may apply to some and not others. But most hyperlexic kids will experience difficulties with most - if not all - of these language skills.

Language skills development in hyperlexia

Common Language Skills that Hyperlexic Kids Might Need Some Extra Support With

Here are some of the specific skills that might need to be addressed:

1. Interpreting language literally (includes: idioms, metaphors, figurative language, personification, connotation, hyperbole, and/or words that have multiple meanings)

2. Developing and building vocabulary

3. Using pronouns correctly and understanding who or what those pronouns are referring to

4. Auditory processing

5. Prepositions and spatial concepts

6. Requesting things

7. Asking questions

8. Answering questions, especially ones that involve WH- questions

9. Making inferences (lots of inference cards to practice with here)

10. Using context clues to pronounce homographs correctly (homographs are words that are spelled the same, have different meanings, and usually pronounced different) 

11. Labeling

12. Saying no and protesting (try these)

13. Communicating basic wants and needs (try these)

14. Grammar

15. Sequencing (first, next, then)

16. Time concepts (includes: day, week, month, seasons, AM/PM, past/present/future, sometimes, today/tonight/tomorrow/yesterday, etc.)

17. Understanding and using social language and rules (try a social story to help with this)

18. Visualization (the Visualizing & Verbalizing kit is a popular choice for this skill)

19. Connotation (picking up on the feelings or emotions associated with certain word choices)

20. Gaining someone's attention to initiate a conversation

21. Flexible thinking

22. Following directions 

23. Giving directions

24. Recognizing associations between objects (categorizing, making analogies, identifying opposites, etc.)

25. Identifying attributes and descriptors of objects and situations

26. Understanding multiple meanings for a single word and resolving ambiguity (e.g., I saw bats ~> could refer to baseball bats or the animal)

27. Making choices

28. Recognizing and responding to nonverbal language cues

29. Making connections with their own knowledge

30. Understanding cause and effect

31. Using context clues (includes: picking up on the meaning of words, foreshadowing, etc.)

32. Monitoring comprehension

33. Expressive language, both spoken and written

34. Determining an author's purpose or intent for writing (or speaker's purpose for speaking)

35. Being able to explain and describe things (try this graphic organizer)

36. Narrative and storytelling skills

37. Understanding characters' motivations and reactions in a story 

38. Activating prior knowledge or schema

39. Conceptualization

40. Language comprehension

A list of language skills that hyperlexic kids might need some extra support with

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