What Is Hyperlexia?
Hyperlexia is a syndrome observed in children who have the following characteristics:
A precocious ability to read words, far above what would be expected at their chronological age or an intense fascination with letters or numbers.
Significant difficulty in understanding verbal language
Abnormal social skills, difficulty in socializing and interacting appropriately with people
In addition, some children who are hyperlexic may exhibit the following characteristics:
Learn expressive language in a peculiar way, echo ro memorize the sentence structure without understanding the meaning (echolalia), reverse pronouns
Rarely initiates conversations
An intense need to keep routines, difficulty with transitions, ritualistic behavior
Auditory, olfactory and / or tactile sensitivity
specific, unusual fears
Normal development until 18-24 months, then regression
strong auditory and visual memory
Difficulty answering "Wh--" questions, such as "what," "where," "who," and "why"
Think in concrete and literal terms, difficulty with abstract concepts
Listen selectively, appear to be deaf
How is Hyperlexia Defined?
Hyperlexia has characteristics similar to autism, behavior disorder, language disorder, emotional disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, hearing impairment, giftedness or, paradoxically, mental retardation.
To develop effective teaching strategies and more typical childhood development, it is important to differentiate hyperlexia from other disorders. A thorough speech and language pathologist who is familiar with the syndrome of hyperlexia is a crucial first step. Psychological tests which emphasise visual processes rathere than verbal skills aid in identifying hyperlexia.
Hearing, neurological, psychiatric, blood chemistry and genetic evaluations can be performed to rule out other disorders but are not needed to identify hyperlexia .
What can be done?
The future of a hyperlexic child depends on developing his / her language expression and comprehension skills. Intensive speech and language therapy and early intervention programs can help achieve this objective. The child's reading skills should be used as a primary means of developing language.
It is important to teach the child appropriate social skills. Providing opportunities for the child to interact with children whose behavior is more socially appropriate is one way to accomplish this.
Parent, teachers and other professionals should work together to develop programs for each child to reach his /her fullest potential.
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