Tuesday, November 22, 2011

letters and numbers and words...oh my!

Isaac reading Dr. Suess's ABC's at 22 months (notice speech delay doesn't inhibit the reading)

Hyperlexia: The precocious ability to read words without prior training in learning to read typically before the age of 5.  First named and scientifically described in 1967, it can be viewed as a superability in which word recognition ability goes far above expected levels of skill. Some hyperlexics, however, have trouble understanding speech.

Hello, Isaac.  

For some reason, this term hasn't come into the picture until now, and honestly, it's a dead ringer when it comes to Isaac's passions and quirks.  

This past week I went to an Open House at the Julie Billiart School in Beachwood.  As I listened to the principal there describe the history of the school, the programs used to teach math, reading, science, etc.  I was caught by an answer to a question another parent posed:  "How do you handle children who on are the spectrum who have very advanced reading abilities?"  The principle nodded.  "Well, yes, we have children who display hyperlexia here, so we screen and test to see their comprehension in comparison to their rote reading level, then we go from there to determine the best path of learning..."

It was like a lightbulb went off in my head.  I wrote the term down on my notes, determined to study it more at home.  

Every medical journal article, every entry, every part of this Hyperlexia was like someone had taken Isaac into a room for a couple of hours, observed him and wrote the definition.  

"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. Hyperlexic children often struggle with Who? What? Where? Why? and How? questions. Between the ages of 4 and 5 years old, many children make great strides in communicating.
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."

As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, or child with ANY type of dealy, having one more way to help describe your child is a gift.  There is a way you can identify with them; another way you can say to yourself, "my child is truly amazing."  Plus, you have a way to help the child grow and learn, using this understanding of what they deal with.  I'm pumped.  

I downloaded a few old movies of Isaac when he was a baby, a toddler...watching him play with letters hours out of the day...watching him read books by himself in his crib...reading stories back to me that we read through together once...watching him recite 1-10 in Spanish, then German...then Mandarin...it makes sense. 

They say autism is like a puzzle, and each child is just another piece of the big picture.  I'm loving that I found just another puzzle piece for Isaac today--another brilliant and beautiful piece.  

What a treasure.  

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