Hyperlexia is a syndrome characterized by a child’s precocious ability to read. . It 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. They indicated that children with hyperlexia have a significantly higher word-decoding ability than their reading comprehension levels.Children with hyperlexia also present with an intense fascination for written material at a very early age.

Hyperlexic children are characterized by having average or above-average IQs, and word-reading ability well above what would be expected given their age.[

Some experts believe that most children with hyperlexia, or perhaps even all of them, lie on the autism spectrum.However, one expert, Darold Treffert, proposes that hyperlexia has subtypes, only some of which overlap with autism.Between 5 and 20 percent of autistic children have been estimated to be hyperlexic.

Hyperlexic children are often fascinated by letters or numbers. They are extremely good at decoding language and thus often become very early readers. Some hyperlexic children learn to spell long words (such as elephant) before they are two years old and learn to read whole sentences before they turn three.Despite hyperlexic children’s precocious reading ability, they may struggle to communicate. Often, hyperlexic children will have a precocious ability to read but will learn to speak only by rote and heavy repetition, and may also have difficulty learning the rules of language from examples or from trial and error, which may result in social problems. Their language may develop using echolalia, often repeating words and sentences. Often, the child has a large vocabulary and can identify many objects and pictures, but cannot put their language skills to good use. Spontaneous language is lacking and their pragmatic speech is delayed

The social skills of a child with hyperlexia often lag tremendously. Hyperlexic children often have far less interest in playing with other children than do their peers.

Types Of Hyperlexia

Darold Treffert proposes three types of hyperlexia Specifically:

Type 1: Neurotypical children who are very early readers.

Type 2: Children on the autism spectrum who demonstrate very early reading as a splinter skill.

Type 3: Very early readers who are not on the autism spectrum, though they exhibit some “autistic-like” traits and behaviours which gradually fade as the child gets older.

A different paper by Rebecca Williamson Brown, OD proposes only two types of hyperlexia.These are:

Type 1: Hyperlexia marked by an accompanying language disorder.

Type 2: Hyperlexia marked by an accompanying visual-spatial learning disorder.


Child Development Centre

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