What is Hyperlexia?

Team Peanut6 months ago4 min read

It can be exciting if your child displays a love of books and remarkable reading and recall skills at a very young age. It could mean you have a gifted kiddo on your hands. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes it points to a rare disorder called hyperlexia.

Young boy reading

Here we explain the difference and explore some of the tell-tale signs associated with being hyperlexic.

Table of Contents 📝

  • Hyperlexia definition
  • What are the tell-tale signs of hyperlexia?
  • Hyperlexia treatment — what are the options?
  • To recap…

Hyperlexia definition

What is hyperlexia syndrome, exactly?

First, let’s break down the word itself: “Hyper” means “beyond” or “excessive,” and “Lexia” refers to language or reading. A child with hyperlexia can read at far higher levels than those of a similar age, although they won’t always understand what they’re reading. Usually, the term is applied to children between the ages of 2 and 4.

So, it’s not the same as being gifted?

No, hyperlexia is not the same as being gifted, although it can be difficult to spot the difference.

A gifted child can display comprehension beyond their reading abilities, and will often only need more nurturing and encouragement to hone their skills.

A child with hyperlexia, meanwhile, will likely have below-average speaking skills and will require additional help and attention to learn how to communicate better.

Is hyperlexia linked to autism?

Hyperlexia is strongly associated with autism, but being hyperlexic isn’t itself enough to diagnose autism. While a 2017 clinical review found that 84% of children with hyperlexia are on the spectrum, remember that every child is different. It is possible to have hyperlexia without being autistic.

How common is hyperlexia?

Hyperlexia is rare. The same clinical review found that between 6% and 14% of children with autism also have hyperlexia. For comparison, it’s thought that 15-20% of the US population suffers from dyslexia, a disorder characterized by difficulty with reading and spelling.

What are the tell-tale signs of hyperlexia?

Most kids with hyperlexia will have the following traits:

  • A love of books — Hyperlexic children tend to find books (and anything with words and letters, from labels to license plates) more interesting than playing with their toys or games. In addition to a fascination with words and letters, some are also drawn to numbers.
  • A fast learner — This early ability to read often comes with little-or-no teaching. In many cases, they’ll teach themselves to read by repeating the words they hear or see, displaying a remarkable memory in the process.
  • Low comprehension — Despite being able to read at a very young age, hyperlexic children exhibit lower than normal levels of understanding in other tasks. This can be seen in other tasks, where they find puzzles and complicated toys difficult and frustrating.
  • Developmental or behavioral issues — Kids with hyperlexia can struggle with speech or communication skills, and they may also show signs of behavioral problems.

Unfortunately, there’s no single test to diagnose hyperlexia. If your child is displaying most or all of the above signs, it’s a good idea to speak with your pediatrician. They can refer you to a specialist for a concrete diagnosis. And the sooner your child is diagnosed, the faster their specific learning needs can be met.

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Hyperlexia treatment — what are the options?

How do you deal with hyperlexia? As with other learning disorders, treatment for hyperlexia is tailored to each child’s needs. Some will require help for just a few years, while others will benefit from longer-term treatment plans.

Either way, a hyperlexic child will spend time with a speech therapist, practice communication exercises, and learn how to understand what they’re reading. Once they start school, they may also need extra support when it comes to more challenging reading comprehension.

To recap…

Got a precocious reader on your hands? Remember that it’s not always a sign of hyperlexia. Every child is different, and they all have their own way of learning.

If you spot the symptoms of hyperlexia, asking for a referral to a specialist is the best course of action. That way, you can be sure your child will get the support they need. And if you need support through the diagnosis, the mamas of Peanut will always have your back.