A couple of months ago, I was speaking with a friend of mine who was telling me about her nephew. Apparently, her 3-year-old nephew is fascinated with numbers and letters and can read single words. I was surprised that her nephew could read, and at first I thought that this child was a genius. Unfortunately, I was wrong. After a little while, my friend told me that her nephew had hyperlexia. I had never heard of this word before so I looked it up. I figured that if I hadn’t heard of hyperlexia before then others probably hadn’t heard of it, too; hence, the blog posting.
According to the Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics--arguably the definitive text on pediatrics—hyperlexia is the spontaneous and precocious development of reading skills in children who are aged between 2- and 5-years-old. Hyperlexia is typically associated with kids who have pervasive developmental disorders (like autism) or specific language impairment--although children with hyperlexia don’t have the social deficits or restricted or repetitive behaviors associated with autism, just the disordered language. (Of note, not all children who can read at a young age have hyperlexia or an associated developmental disorder.)