23 February 2009

Hyperlexia - What Is It?

Hyperlexic children are often fascinated by letters and numbers. Some children can learn to spell long words before they are two years old and learn to read whole sentences before they turn three. They often become very early readers. This aspect of hyperlexia can be viewed as a superability. Often this ability is initilly considered a gift of super intelligence, so many parents delay getting their children help when language starts becoming difficult.

On the other hand, hyperlexic children have difficulties with spoken language. They learn to speak only by memory and repetition. Rules of language such as word order and tenses are difficult to master. Often, the child has a large vocabulary and can identify many objects and pictures but can't participate in spontaneous conversation.

Such language challenges may result in difficulty interacting with other children and other problems. Social skills often suffer. Hyperlexic children often have low interest in playing with other children.

Hyperlexia exhibits the following characteristics-

  • An unusually early ability to read words

  • An intense fascination with letters or numbers.

  • Significant difficulty in understanding verbal language

  • Difficulty in socializing and interacting appropriately with others

  • Memorizes sentences without understanding their meanings

  • Reverses pronouns

  • Rarely initiates conversations or asks questions

  • Strong need to keep routines, ritualistic behavior

  • Difficulty with transitions

  • Very sensitive to sounds, smells and textures

  • Self-stimulatory behavior

  • Unusual fears (beyond the boogie man under the bed or monster in the closet)

  • Normal development until 18-24 months, then regression

  • Strong auditory and visual memory

  • Difficulty answering who-what-when-where questions

  • Think in literal terms, difficulty with abstract ideas

  • Listen selectively, appear to be deaf sometimes

  • Their diets may be picky

  • Potty training can be difficult, more so than for children their same age

MRI studies showed that hyperlexia may be the neurological opposite of dyslexia. Hyperlexia sometimes co-exists with Asperger Syndrome. Right now there is professional disagreement over whether to include hyperlexia within the realm of autism or classify it as unique.

Please check out these resources:

American Hyperlexia Association

Canadian Hyperlexia Association

Hyperlexia Parents Network

Books on Hyperlexia


  1. This is a very interesting take on Hyperlexia.
    It's worth reading.

  2. Skepto - thanks for the visit and comment. Wish I could find more info on treatment. This issue is unfortunately in it's infancy regarding what to do.

  3. Thank you for posting this. FYI the address for the Hyperlexia Parents Network has changed. It can now be found at:


    We now also offer three social network doorways (Yahoo Groups, The HPN Forum, and a Facebook Group).