What is Hyperlexia?
Hyperlexia is a term used for children who are able to read written words at a very young age, before they are expected to and without explicit instruction on how to decode the letters within words. It is a syndrome often diagnosed as part of other developmental disorder such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, sensory integration dysfunction, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia of Speech or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Often children with Hyperlexia, such as those on with Autism Spectrum Disorder have poor receptive understanding of language. For this reason, hyperlexic children often do not understand the texts that they are reading. They are only able to decode the words. This means they can match each letter to the associated sound, and blend the sounds together to make the word but they don’t make the association between the word and its meaning. This means that they can’t comprehend the words or sentences.
How does Hyperlexia occur?
While the exact reason for hyperlexia is not known, given its co morbidity with other disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive disorder, some researchers have attributed it down to the overly obsessive interests in print. Children that have these disorders tend to have very limited interests and fixate on very specific hobbies or interests. They often become highly attached to certain objects, such as alphabet books and their interest in the areas develop while communication lags behind. For this reason, we can see why comprehension does not progress at the same speed as decoding skills.
How is Hyperlexia treated?
Hyperlexia exists alongside other developmental disorders and therefore should always be treated in conjunction with other symptoms. A speech pathologists role is to diagnose the extent of a communication disorder and determine the areas that have the greatest impact on communication ability. While this can differ from child to child, often hyperlexic children have poor comprehension, not just for written language but also oral language. 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 functional and 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.