One of my favorite parts of vacationing with my kids is getting to see how they experience everything in a brand new setting. With my hyperlexic son, I love seeing how he interacts with the plethora of new peers he encounters on our adventures. One of his new favorite places being the playground.
What was amazing about our most recent vacation is that my husband and I were able to witness firsthand the progression my son has made socially. In these encounters he showcased his (somewhat new) abilities in the social realm:
- He introduced himself.
- He asked another child to play.
- He asked what the child wanted to do.
- He participated in back and forth conversation during play.
Whereas he struggled for awhile to move past parallel play (and he still plays alone at school at times), at the playground his favorite thing to do is to find a new friend and encounter the slides and swing together as playmates. At the playground, he is a social butterfly.
I’ve argued before for looking at hyperlexia through a social lens, especially hyperlexia type III (Categorizing Hyperlexia as a Social Disability), and through the years I have been innately aware of my son’s social deficits and progression.
But at this age is my son still hyperlexic? Well, let’s look back at what hyperlexia is.
Hyperlexia, by definition, is the self-taught ability to read early (usually before the child is four years old). This super ability is typically combined with difficulties in language and/or speech, as well as deficits in social interactional skills (see: Treffert’s Definition of Hyperlexia).
Our Early Definition of Hyperlexia highlighted my son’s early experiences with hyperlexia. For us, hyperlexia was not just this ability to read early; hyperlexia referred to a special relationship he had with letters and numbers. Yes, we were amazed that he taught himself to read, but to be honest the reading part was not that surprising. He loved to be read to; it felt natural for him to begin reading to himself. But this special draw he had towards letters and numbers and this gift he had for them was what really surprised us.
At three years of age we were in the throes of hyperlexia, and it was hard to imagine a time where letters and numbers would be background noise. Check out Our Experience with Type III Hyperlexia to see how hyperlexia has shifted through the years with my son.
But as my son turns five years old, our definition of hyperlexia has grown and matured, just as my son has.
And has the intensity of hyperlexia faded over time in our experience with Hyperlexia Type 3?
Yes it indeed has.
But don’t be mistaken, there are still many challenges present as my son navigates through childhood and especially into his primary school years.
For instance, we recently had him evaluated by a psychologist and found that he is gifted and shows early signs of ADHD. We were told at the appointment that success at a typical public school would be highly unlikely and that we should be prepared for a rocky road of schooling ahead.
What is interesting and often frustrating is that hyperlexia seems to fuel a hyper-ability and -desire to learn, typically academic-natured topics of interest, at such an early age. And as children approach school age, they are often incredibly ahead of their peers academically. Hyperlexic children, however, still have as much to learn (and often more) than their peers socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. But what will my son learn academically among his peers in kindergarten? And in first grade? Or second?
Further, though my son’s obsessions with letters and numbers have faded, there are still some obvious instances of hyperlexia that arise in our day to day experiences. His hyperlexia is not “gone”; the need for numbers is still ever present, though somewhat more relaxed. For instance:
- He will point out the house number 2222 every time we pass it.
- He likes to pick out the number cash register when we check out at the grocery store.
- He still loves counting and is drawn to numbers if they are posted (for ex. bus numbers posted in the school gymnasium are somewhat though not entirely distracting for him).
- He continues to have quite a few non-age typical interests (geography, presidents, coins, the periodic table, etc). His current passion being airplanes, with his favorite being the AirBus A350.
- He spends a chunk of his day solving math problems; asking me the answer to a variety of problems.
What will his hyperlexia look like in a few years?
If only I could answer this!
I’ve had many parents message me about what to expect as they are themselves in the throes of hyperlexia (ages 2.5-3.5 being what I like to call the ripe hyperlexia years) and the thing is, we focus so much on the present, because we really don’t know what the future will be like for these kids. Or as Shakespeare more elegantly poses:
We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
By definition, hyperlexia is a label that impacts children before the age of four; the principal definition of hyperlexia is the ability to read early. So the primary ages for hyperlexia labelling/diagnosis/intervention are also before the age of four. It would only make sense that this is when the intensities of hyperlexia are at their peak.
With this in mind, symptoms of hyperlexia do generally seem to decrease or fade over time. This idea is further promoted by the Center for Speech and Language Disorders in Chicago: Check out CSLD’s hyperlexia information at: Hyperlexia.
I believe a lot of this stems from the nature of the hyperlexia definition itself. It is static, and it doesn’t account for what happens to these children after they have learned to read at such a young age and how that impacts the other realms of their life. Children are constantly growing and changing and as such need a definition that grows, as well. So for now, we still have hyperlexia on our radar. We still bask in the neurodivergent experiences our son exposes us to and trudge and muddle through the struggles it brings, as all parents do. We are excited and nervous to see how our son handles kindergarten this year, as well as how his teachers will handle a child who mastered kindergarten standards at two years of age. Oh, hyperlexia.