Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hyperlexia revisited - part 2: The joy of text

This is the second in a series of posts where I attempt to provide a snap shot of hyperlexia beyond the "my toddler can read" stage. I want to describe some of the ways that hyperlexia might manifest in ways other than early reading.

Previously, I wrote about how Ben's linguistic sophistication coexists with a lack of social sophistication. In other words: language is easy, conversation is hard.


Part 2: The joy of text

Ben's brain seems optimized to interact with text. He is often noticing different fonts and unusual lettering. He's wondered out loud, for example why there are two kinds of lower case "a"s. (Single-storey versus a double-storey a, in case you were curious.) And even though he has some fine motor delays and handwriting is hard for him, he painstakingly draws his letters, experimenting with different styles.

He spots typos and editorial inconsistencies like a seasoned copy editor. A few nights ago he casually pointed out, looking at the name of a villain in a Batman book, "It's 'The Scarecrow' on this page and 'Scarecrow' on that page." If there's a typo in the copy on toy packaging - you'd be surprised how often there is - Ben will spot it.

Occasionally, I'll type while he dictates an improvised story, and he will look over my shoulder, correcting any mistyped words or even suggesting improved punctuation.

Once, a few days after I typed a dictated story for him and printed it out, he wanted to go back and change it very slightly. He described the change he wanted to make without looking at the printed story and it was clear he had remembered the text exactly and planned the edit in his head.

His relationship to text is more than analytical. It's emotional, too. He experiences pure delight at unexpected or unusual words or letters. When we visited the main branch of the Berkeley Public Library for the first time recently, he laughed on and on about the Roman-style lettering carved into the cornerstone of the building, even pointing it out to a passerby so they could share in his delight:

Picture 11.png

We still refer to it as the Berkeley Puh-vib-lic Library.

Of course, I don't expect that Ben's characteristics are universal for every hyperlexic kid at six or seven years old. But the literature that's out there now often focuses so much on toddlers and not enough on older kids. What are your observations of your older child or yourself if you're an adult with hyperlexia?