What is hyperlexia?

Table of Contents

Summary

This is an introduction to hyperlexia.
It explains what hyperlexia is.
Learn to recognise hyperlexia in children.

What is hyperlexia?

A hyperlexic child can read well from a young age. Usually aged 2 or 3-years-old. They learn to read words by themselves. Yet understanding the words is harder for them.

There is no one clear definition of hyperlexia. 

How do I know if a child is hyperlexic?

There is no test for hyperlexia. An accepted definition is:

  • Being able to read at a young age, without being taught.
  • A lack of understanding of what they read.

Can I get a hyperlexia diagnosis?

  • Hyperlexia is not a diagnosis on it’s own.
  • Some professionals might identify hyperlexia as a trait.
  • Understanding that a child is hyperlexic can help tailor support. 
  • If you are concerned that your child has language or developmental difficulties, talk to your GP or health visitor.

Characteristics of a hyperlexic child

This is from observational studies and lived experience: 

  • A hyperlexic child of 3 or 4 years might want to read lots of things. They may read story books, car number plates and the labels of food in the shops.
  • A child may prefer to read instead of playing with toys such as trucks, dolls or make believe.
  • Hyperlexic children may show a strong interest in numbers, shapes, and logos.
  • They may enjoy things like logo quizzes and alphabet-themed items.
  • A hyperlexic child may read a children’s book but not understand it all.
  • There is a fascination with letters.
  • The child has taught themselves to read words.
  • There may be a sudden emergence of the ability to read. Often surprising the parents (Ostralenk et al. 2017).
  • The ability to read is well above average.

Is every early reader hyperlexic?

A child who reads early and understands what they read, is not considered hyperlexic.

  • Hyperlexia is excellent reading skills but poor comprehension.
  • Yet our knowledge of hyperlexia is still growing.

Hyperlexia as a strength

  • Reading is a skill and a strength. 
  • Hyperlexic children read easily and naturally. 
  • People often overlook strengths in disabilities (Robertson 2010). 
  • Follow this link to support hyperlexia.

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Fun fact about hyperlexia

Hyperlexia was first named by Silberberg and Silberberg in 1967. The word originates from Greek. Hyper means ‘over’ and lexis means ‘word’.