What Is Autism-Hyperlexia?

Yesterday, four years into this journey, Addi finally received an official - diagnosis of Autism (although we've known since she was 15 months old). For Addi, the addition of hyperlexia has been a big part of this autism journey.

Hyperlexia is rare (so rare there still isn't a lot about it on the internet which is why I'm writing this). There are three types of hyperlexia:

Type 1- a precocious ability to read at a very early age, generally before 4.
Type 2- the precocious ability to read at an early age as a splinter skill of Autism.
Type 3 is the same as type two except the signs of Autism are outgrown and go away.

Addi falls into the type two category. We had always considered that she may just one day grow out of the behaviors that were indicators of Autism, however, that hasn't happened.

Most people upon hearing that you have a child who suddenly began reading and spelling literally anything at the age of 2.5 become terribly amused by the skill and proceed to test it. The other response is that people will tell you that they or someone they know were good readers as kids too.

The difference comes is that while reading is great just because she can read or spell any word and has quite the vocabulary that does not mean that she comprehends what she is reading. She can read every word of a book the first time she picks it up, but generally has a very hard time answering questions, especially 'WH' questions about the book or what she has read. Unless it's Peppa Pig... Peppa is beloved and she doesn't miss a beat talking about her favorite subject.

And even though her vocabulary is fantastic, Addi struggles to communicate her needs. She has never told me she feels bad, has a headache, that she is cold, and has only very recently began expressively saying that she needs a drink or would like a snack. In many regards I am still simply anticipating her needs much like I did when she was 9 months old, although now she can respond yes or no most times. I have become an excellent detective as to what her whine may indicate.

Aside from her incredible ability in reading, she fits the bill for the general standards of Autism. Stemming behavior, which for her is running in loops, she has no interest in being social or playing with children of her own age, has difficulty in motor planning, so that means at playgrounds for example I have to direct her in what to play or suggest that she slide or swing, she is a very picky eater and eats the same foods day after day, and experiences meltdowns on a daily basis because of the disconnect in communication. She can't go into grocery stores and it's been years since we ate in a restaurant. Thank goodness for Wal-Mart grocery pick-up (which has been life changing for us- we finally have food!) and of course good to-go service on nights we need a rest from cooking.

Although I am still immersing myself in every bit of Autism and Hyperlexia information I can dig up, I do believe that Addi's view of the world is perhaps more interesting and rich than many of us 'neurotypicals' and I am grateful to get to experience it with her.

She sees the wind and is just full of this boundless energy and intrigue by the natural world. Perhaps all of our lives could learn something from her example. Be quiet, listen, read, jump, and feel. Take it all in. Have fun and be yourself.

Photography: Abigail Malone