This is a new word in our family vocabulary. Morgan had her long-awaited evaluation with the child psychologist last week. The evaluation is still in progress, but in the interim we were introduced to this new concept. Hyperlexia is simply defined as a "precocious reading ability in very young children." We've been fascinated with Morgan's early abilities to recognize and name numbers, letters, shapes and colors. In the information on Hyperlexia I've read so far I've seen the term, "an intense fascination with letters and numbers" several times. This is definitely the case with Morgan, who will announce any letters and numbers she sees...anywhere, the sign on a store, a highway speed limit sign and even the page numbers in a book. She's lately taken to spelling out a word on a page and then asking us "what's that spell?" I couldn't say she's actually reading yet, but I could see it happening anytime.
In some kids Hyperlexia is just a higher level skill and they go on to develop "normally" ("neuro-typical" or NT is what I see a lot lately). However, in many children Hyperlexia is often seen as a "splinter skill" that is associated with autism. Some other professionals think that Hyperlexia in some children causes "autistic-like" behaviors, but the child may lose some of those behaviors as their communication skills improve.
With Hyperlexia many children can read, but unfortunately there is a lower comprehension of what they are actually reading. There can also be significant problems in understanding language. This makes sense to me as many times I've tried to explain something to Morgan or ask a question and I just get nothing back. Many times I've said to David that I just don't think she understands what I'm saying to her. Expressive language is delayed and with early speech, what they do say is often "echolalic," repeated words and phrases. There is little spontaneous language.
The psychologist did say that she saw red flags for autism during her evaluation, but she felt she needed more information. We now have her scheduled to observe Morgan's preschool class in early January. She wants to observe how Morgan behaves in a class of NT children. I'm encouraged that she wants to do this. Though we still may come out with an autism diagnosis, I feel like the evaluation will be thorough and we will have something concrete to work with.
There is much more to it...I could write forever. If you are interested, here are a few links to articles on Hyperlexia that have been helpful for us. Much of it surprised us that the more we read the more "it sounds like Morgan.":
No matter the outcome, we know we have a lot of therapy and special education ahead of us. She is in a good place with both of her current schools and therapy schedule. It may not change much even with an official diagnosis, but it will give us more detailed information to use so we can help her maximize her potential.