Friday, September 5, 2008

What is the meaning of this?

If you read anything about Hyperlexia, one of the first things you will learn is that children who are hyperlexic start out with reading skills that are far, far more advanced than their comprehension skills.

While Ben's decoding-to-comprehension ratio has been gradually evening out, I'm noticing something in the last few weeks that tells me that he is actively trying to comprehend.

He's constantly asking me what words mean.

I'm used to him just reading and reading and reading, knowing that he can't possibly UNDERSTAND what "Resource and Sagacity" means (heck, I don't) even though he can sound out the words.

And he never seemed to mind that he was saying the words without understanding the meaning. The exercise of reading aloud seemed to be, in part, about enjoying the sound of the words and the process of putting the sounds together to make words, like playing music rather than communicating.

Now he'll stop and ask me, for example, in the middle of reading his Star Wars book, "What is proton?" "What are torpedoes?"

He'll also just ask me the meaning of words out of the blue, as if he's been reciting a story in his head and suddenly realizes he wants to know the meaning of this word he's been saying for months.

Sometimes I know what story he's thinking of and sometimes I have no idea.

Here are a few random examples just from the last few days:

What's a shrub?

What's destroyed?

What's jealous?

What's exhaust?

What's a meerkat?

What's solemn?

What is orbiting?

What is berserk?

and, my favorite:

"Mommy, what's obe-live-VEE-on?"


"Obe-live-VEE-on." (points to song lyrics)

"Oh - that's oblivion. It's up into the sky."

"Oh. Oblivion."

And thus, slowly go the characteristics of Hyperlexia, fading into oblivion.


Jordan said...

Wow, that's huge! Yay, Ben! That opens so many doors for his comprehension.

Roger Travis (TinPeregrinus) said...

Exactly! Wonderful post. Our Peter's drinking in kindergarten like he's just crossed the desert of contextlessness and arrived in an oasis of meaning.

Chris Ereneta said...

The there was the one from his Star Wars book that we weren't sure how to answer.

"...the Death Star...what is 'Death'?"

Penguin Lady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...


Anonymous said...

Very cool. This is just barely emerging here - not nearly to the level you are describing.

Wanda said...

That is amazing! Maybe some day I can say the same for my son!

My son just started kindergarten, we always knew he was different, but we always thought it was a "normal" different. He had never been to preschool or daycare before kindergarten. So now he is having all of these social problems and anger problems. Someone suggested hyperlexia. The school is planning on doing tests but the pyschologist doesnt get back into the area until October. He needs help now! I am sad and confused. I just want to be able to help him.

I know this is a ton from a random person. But I was wondering if you minded me asking you a few questions?

My email is

Regardless, thank you!

Danna said...

Wonderful and so timely to read this! I was just reading a book by Temple Grandin last night and I got to the part where she discusses reading for high functioning autism children is not about the 'words' but about the tone and musical quality of the sound. She said she read for years without realizing that the 'words' actually meant something. She found the meaning in the tone. Her theory is that music is actually the origin of all language and before we had 'language' we all communicated through tone and music. This is something that Ben knows to be true that we don't even consider!