Hyperlexia refers to when a child prior spontaneously learns to read without being explicitly taught. Children with hyperlexia will often have poor comprehension of what they are reading as well as difficulty comprehending what is being said to them verbally. Hyperlexia was initially identified by Norman E. Silberberg and Margaret C. Silberberg (1967), who defined it as the precocious ability to read words without prior training in learning to read, typically before the age of 5.
Hyperlexia is commonly linked with Global Developmental Delay, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive disorder. These conditions often have poor receptive language as a key characteristic. It is often due to these difficulties that children are unable to understand what they have read, in the same way that they have difficulty understanding what is said to them. Children that have these disorders may have have select interests – and focus on very specific hobbies. They may become highly attached to certain objects that take their interest. However whilst they may have advanced skills in some areas, development in other areas like communication can lag behind. For example, comprehension may not progress at the same speed as decoding skills.
Treatment for hyperlexia needs to focus on all elements of language to find the route of the problem. A speech pathologists will assess and determine the level of communication difficulty and find the areas that each child struggles with and provide therapy focusing in these deficits which in turn helps make their reading more functional. It is therefore important to have a comprehensive language assessment with a particular focus on verbal and written comprehension. From there the speech pathologist in conjunction with the child’s parent can make informed decisions about the most effective treatment method.
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This article was written by our Speech Pathologist Ashleigh Fattah who is a Speech Pathology Australia member. If you have speech pathology related questions, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with simple and effective therapy targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.
Lamônica DA, Gejão MG, Prado LM, Ferreira AT. Codas. 2013;25(4):391-5. Reading skills in children diagnosed with hyperlexia: case reports. pubmed link