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It still surprises me as to how many educators, parents and yes; therapists have not heard the term Hyperlexia. My path has crossed with many more individuals today who are familiar with this hyperlexic autism diagnosis. The specialists say that it usually goes hand in hand with other autism spectrum disorders and usually does not stand alone. I came across this term twenty years ago. A speech pathologist tested my child many years ago and informed my husband and I that our son was on the Autism spectrum and definitely exhibited the traits of a hyperlexic child.
Hyperlexia is defined as one who exhibits abnormal social skills, difficultly with the spoken word, but has a precious reading ability by the age of two or three. We did not discover our child could read until he was four as he did not verbalize. This discovery came to us while at an office visit with an audiologist. Our child who did not use the language as a means of communicating just began to read the credentials off the plaque that hung on the wall in audiologist’s office. Finding the term hyperlexia was like finding the password that unlocked our child.
About a year ago, I met a four year old child. In about twenty minutes, I sized up the fact that he most likely was hyperlexic. This child was incredibly bright. He knew all the words from beginning to end of the latest video. He repeated street addresses; zip codes, phone numbers and the list went on. Hyperlexic children fixate on letters and numbers. This little boy reminded me so much of my own child at the same age. As I continued to observe him, the similarities were just unbelievable!
The difference, however, was that the parents were in complete denial. Yes, the child could repeat facts and information at such a young age, but it was apparent that socially he would have a long road ahead of him. I witnessed a melt down and the parents had not yet come to the realization that their child needed help!
I have told my child’s story in my book called “My Child Wasn’t Born Perfect”. My child began kindergarten with the language ability of a two and a half year old, the public school wanted to put him in a pre-primary impaired program. I followed my gut instincts and got him the help he needed. It takes time and effort. You need to set a goal to work learning experiences into your daily routine. I just engaged my child whenever I could. Today, my child is a computer software engineer. As parents, we built on our child’s strengths to help him overcome his weaknesses. No matter what the challenge, go after it, embrace it, and never give up!
As the summer presses on, I look back and think about the past years. Those elementary years that my children would wonder what the next school year would bring. What would their new teacher be like, what new challenges would they face, and how they looked forward to seeing their friends each school day on the playground.
Of course, there was one of my children who had more fears than the others about the new school year. JD did not like change and transition. He had just gotten use to this past year’s teacher and the playground was not the highlight of each school day. This child did not have a group of friends, he lacked social skill, and the recess time was often frustrating and a struggle. Though my son’s academic problems were diminishing, the social challenges associated with the Autism spectrum were front and center.
I recommend that every parent set a goal and take the time to go view their child from afar on the playground. What an education! Many lessons can be learned about your own child. Is he or she the child in the corner that no one will play with? Could it be that my child is the one being bullied or was your child the one instigating the bullying? It doesn’t matter if your child has social deficiencies associated with autism, if they are an overweight child, or too short or too tall. KIDS CAN BE MEAN!
I watched from a distance and what I saw broke my heart. My child who was labeled on the autism spectrum and lacked social skills was sometimes bullied, sometimes alone with no one to play with, and he just wanted to fit in. Though it was hard to watch the sadness written all over his face as the other kids treated him like he was invisible, I learned a great deal about how to help my child. In my book called “My Child Wasn’t Born Perfect” I talk about the ideas that were generated from viewing the playground. Awareness, child milestone measurements, and strategies on how to help my own child were gained each and every time I visited the playground.
At home, my child was shown how to break into groups, respond to other kids, how to say “no you cannot be mean to me” and this list goes on. It would be my advice to take the time and make the effort to visit the playground at recess this upcoming school year. You will need the school’s permission, but it is really worth it. Life lessons will truly be learned.