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What Is Hyperlexia?

Hyperlexia describes a disorder in which a child is able to read beyond his or her reading level.
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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 02 July 2014
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Hyperlexia is a rare disorder in which a child is able to read beyond his or her expected reading level, but does not possess the ability to understand what he or she reads. A youngster with the condition will often display a high interest in letters or numbers, and have trouble interacting with others. The condition is usually diagnosed when a child is 18- to 24-months old and shares traits with autism, behavior disorders, emotional disorders, and attention deficit disorder. No known cure exists for hyperlexia.

Even though a person with hyperlexia may display a high reading ability, he or she will often have trouble communicating ideas. Symptoms of hyperlexia can include a fixation for routines, abnormal fears, trouble forming relationships, and selective listening. A hyperlexic individual will usually not be the first to engage in conversation and often possesses a strong capacity for memorizing through imagery. Typically, a youngster with the condition will display normal development, but then around 24 months of age, he or she often begins to noticeably slow down in developing.

An individual with the syndrome generally will teach him- or herself to read. It is usually common for a hyperlexic child to display disinterest in participating in peer activities because of a strong fascination for reading. To a hyperlexic child, reading is generally a compulsion and the capacity for reciting words often exceeds his or her likely intellectual level.

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While it is not exactly known what triggers the disorder, there are some ways of detecting it. A child with the condition can have a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test pick up unusual activity on his or her left side of the brain. Psychologists often suggest that the disorder arises from a difference in the youngster’s brain during development. To determine if the condition exists, psychological tests often focus on visual methods instead of oral capabilities. A qualified speech and language pathologist can also often identify the disorder.

Hyperlexia is generally connected with some kind of pervasive developmental disorder and the syndrome may often appear similar to autism. A hyperlexic child, however, is different from an autistic youngster. Often, a hyperlexic child will grow out of his or her antisocial behavior as the command of language increases.

A variety of techniques exist for parents, teachers, and other professionals to assist a hyperlexic child. Intervention methods generally concentrate on improving language and understanding skills. A child can often improve his or her skills through rigorous speech and language therapy, as well as by participating in early intervention programs.

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