Thursday, September 08, 2022

How to Find a Speech Therapist Who's Familiar with Hyperlexia

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Looking for a speech therapist for your hyperlexic child? Here's how to find a speech therapist who's familiar with hyperlexia and the unique challenges that come along with it.

One of the biggest hurdles that parents face is finding professionals who have actually heard of hyperlexia. 

As a result, it's almost next to impossible for families to find the right support for their hyperlexic learners. And often all we need is just one good speech therapist. One. That's all we ask for.

Instead, we have professionals who dismiss our concerns about hyperlexia. Or therapists who brush hyperlexia off as just some splinter skill (which it's not). Or therapists who use the wrong therapy approach when working with our kids. All of which are less than ideal and harmful.

Thankfully, there are many wonderful speech therapists out there who are familiar with hyperlexia and will be a great fit for your child. It's just finding them that's the challenge.

So below we'll cover some tips for how to find a speech therapist who's familiar with hyperlexia. I'll also share some other tips for what to do if you can't find someone at the local level who will be a good fit.

How to find a speech therapist specializing in hyperlexia

Tips for How to Find a Speech Therapist Who's Actually Heard of Hyperlexia

1. Contact CHAT Speech Therapy (based in Illinois, USA)

Phyllis Kupperman, who founded CHAT (previously the Center for Speech and Language Disorders), is one of the leading experts on hyperlexia. So the staff at CHAT know hyperlexia really well and have plenty of experience working with these types of learners. 

They offer consults, evaluations, and therapy/teletherapy services with one of their may qualified speech therapists, even if you live out of town. Not sure if they offer services to those outside of the US or not, but they are a great first option to explore. You can learn more about their hyperlexia services here.

Please note that I'm not affiliated with CHAT nor is this post sponsored. I'm simply sharing an option that has been super helpful for other families in the past. 

2. Use the Meaningful Speech Registry

Your next best bet is to search the Meaningful Speech Registry for someone local to you. It's actually how we found our amazing speech therapist Hailey!

The therapists listed here are trained in Natural Language Acquisition and gestalt language processing, both of which are important for working with hyperlexic learners. 

The individuals in this registry have all successfully completed the Meaningful Speech course on gestalt language processing, which also provides information on hyperlexia. I highly recommend taking the course yourself if you can because the lunch and learn video on hyperlexia is fantastic.

Don't see anyone close to you? Perhaps you could consider teletherapy with someone else on this registry who's in the same state, province, or country. Online speech therapy is a great option for many!

Again, full disclosure, I'm not affiliated with this registry nor is this post sponsored. I am, however, an affiliate for the Meaningful Speech course because the course is a fantastic resource that I took myself and I highly recommend it.

3. Email local speech therapists and ask them about hyperlexia

Do a simple google search of "speech therapy + name of place you live." Then start asking around locally to see if anyone is familiar with hyperlexia, gestalt language processing, and/or Natural Language Acquisition. Who knows, you might find someone who doesn't necessarily advertise hyperlexia on their website or in their bio. 

The chances might be slim with this method though, but you never know. There might be some random speech therapist specializing in hyperlexia near you.

It's challenging for parents to find a speech therapist who's heard of hyperlexia

What to Do if You Can't Find a Speech Pathologist Familiar with Hyperlexia

If the above three options fail, don't give up yet. There are lots of other things you can still try when it comes to finding someone to help your hyperlexic child with speech language therapy.  

1. Look for a speech therapist who is neurodiversity affirming

Ask them about their views about autism or echolalia to get a sense for how they view things. Those views should align with yours and what you expect out of therapy for your hyperlexic child. Whether you're looking to work on language and communication skills or something else entirely, you and the therapist should be aligned.

2. Look for a speech therapist who focuses on child-led therapy and using a child's interests

That's what's best for hyperlexic learners after all. If they tell you to discourage your hyperlexic child's letter play, run the other direction. That's a big red flag telling you that they don't truly understand the hyperlexic learning style. It may be time to find a new private speech pathologist if they're giving you inappropriate advice like that.

Hyperlexia therapy red flag

3. Look for a therapist familiar with gestalt language processing

Most speech therapists are trained to work with analytic language processors, which is not how hyperlexic children learn language. You want to look for someone who knows what gestalt language processing is. If you're curious about the differences between these two ways of learning language, read analytic vs gestalt language processors.

Most speech therapists are trained to work with analytic language processors, not gestalt language processors

4. Consider teletherapy or online speech therapy instead of in-person therapy 

Perhaps there's a therapist in the same state or province as you who is familiar with hyperlexia and offers teletherapy. 

5. Educate and learn together with your current speech therapist 

You could also help your speech therapist learn about hyperlexia and related topics. Perhaps you could both take the Meaningful Speech course together or share hyperlexia articles and research with each other. Or read Marge Blanc's book on Natural Language Acquisition. Besides, the only way to make sure there are more therapists familiar with hyperlexia is to educate those unfamiliar with it.

It's important to educate others about hyperlexia

6. Educate yourself about the hyperlexic learning style and its related speech/language challenges

Perhaps you just can't find anyone or there are other barriers to accessing therapy services (cost, insurance, residency permits, lengthy wait lists, etc.). There are still lots of things you can do at home to support your hyperlexic child's language skills. 

Good starting places are learning about gestalt language processing, reading the Hyperlexia: Therapy that Works manual (which you can download from the CHAT website), and my blog (obviously). You can also search social media and places like Teachers Pay Teachers for resources and materials to help.

Obviously, it would be best to work with a qualified professional, but that's not always an option for some families. But educating yourself about how to support your hyperlexic child's language skills will certainly go a long way.

Finding the Right Speech Therapist Can be Hard, but it's So Worth it!

For years, I've dreamed of creating a database or registry of therapists familiar with hyperlexia. I even started making it, but it would be hard to monitor and regulate on my own. So I've scrapped the idea once again. Maybe one day I will make it happen...

But until then, hopefully these tips for how to find a speech therapist for your hyperlexic child are helpful. I truly hope you can find someone who is a good fit and at least semi-knowledgeable about hyperlexia.

How to find a speech therapist specializing in hyperlexia

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