Saturday, July 23, 2016

Everyday Accommodations & Strategies for Kids with Hyperlexia

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Practical everyday tips, accommodations, and strategies to help support 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, but cover an additional 25 in the eBook Beyond the Letters: Everyday Strategies to Help Children with Hyperlexia Learn Language and Social Skills.

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

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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!

Need More Practical Strategies to Try?

Then be sure to check out the additional 25 ideas available in the eBook Beyond the Letters. LEARN MORE >>

Beyond the Letters 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 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 

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