Hyperlexia: symptoms, causes and treatment of this syndrome

Hyperlexia is a syndrome with two main features: On the one hand, this implies that the child has an early ability to read, and on the other hand, that he presents certain difficulties in understanding and using verbal language, which poses problems in social interactions .

In this article, we will analyze the difficulties of this syndrome and its relation to autism. In addition, we will learn about their causes, symptoms and ideas for encouraging learning in these children.

    Hyperlexia: what is it?

    Hyperlexia is a syndrome characterized by the fact that the boy or the girl feels a great fascination with letters, numbers or both. Outraged, advanced reading ability for the child’s age is added, Compared to children his age.

    Children with hyperlexia can start reading words at age 2.

    Difficulty understanding

    Even if a child suffers from hyperlexia and can read well before children his age, the truth is that it also presents some difficulties in understanding what you read, Or use oral language correctly. This prevents these children from speaking in the same way as other children who have learned to read at normative ages.

    How do they learn?

    But … how do children with hyperlexia learn to read and speak? They don’t do this by following the usual or considered normal procedure (like that used by other children) of learning sounds first, then words, and finally sentences.

    Hyperlexic children, on the other hand, use memory; like that, what they do is memorize words, phrases, sentences (Or even entire conversations) through what they hear or read on a daily basis, be it adults, media, advertising, books, TV, etc.

    So, when they are able to create sentences, it is because they have previously learned to memorize and dissect what they have read or heard, to later create their own expressions, being these originals.


    The typical symptoms of hyperlexia are diverse. On the one hand, there is this ability to read early and early for a child’s age (compared to other children of the same age), as well as difficulty understanding and using verbal language.

    Another symptom that appears is a very good ability to memorize, in addition to learning the language through it. In addition, they are children who think very concretely and who learn mainly through visual stimuli.

    As for the difficulties they present, there are problems in processing what has been said verbally and in answering questions about “who”, “what”, “where”, “when” and “why”. Social skills difficulties also appear (For example, to start or hold conversations, or to respect the rotation of words).

    Finally, children with hyperlexia also show certain insecurities, related to changes in their routine.

    Other features of this syndrome

    Children with hyperlexia usually have great memories, both visual and auditory. That implies that they are able to remember what they see and feel quite easily and very precisely. In addition, they use this memory to facilitate their language learning.

    On the other hand, hyperlexic children they may present with echolalia (Repeat the words or phrases they hear from the interlocutor, not understanding what they really mean). Echolalia can be immediate (repeating the word or phrase when hearing it) or delayed (repeating hours, days, or even weeks later).

    These alterations or peculiarities of speech can cause communication problems and prevent them from starting sentences or conversations spontaneously.

    other modifications

    In addition, children with hyperlexia may also have other disorders, such as sensory integration dysfunction, attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADHD), motor dyspraxia, seizure disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, among others.

    the causes

    The causes of hyperlexia are still unknown. However, it is suspected that the fact that it appears against the background of another developmental disorder (if so), may reflect a cerebral neurological organization different from the normotypic organization.

    Relationship with autism

    Occasionally, hyperlexia may appear as a symptom of autism. However, it should be remembered that 75% of autistic children also have an associated intellectual disability (mild, moderate or severe).

    In case hyperlexia appears alongside autismThe symptoms mentioned above will continue to manifest alongside those of autism, and will mainly involve difficulties in socializing, communicating, expressing themselves, etc.

    In addition, symptoms of autism will appear, such as ritualistic behaviors, fixation on objects or parts thereof, language alterations (e.g. echolalia), restrictive interest patterns, hiccups or hypersensitivity, etc.

      Treatment: educational strategies

      Treatment for hyperlexia will be focused on solving the difficulties that the child presents in relation to his learning and his way of relating and communicating.

      It will be advisable to value their assets, such as memory, and to use them to create tools and materials likely to facilitate their learning. For example, since it is generally children who learn best thanks to the visual system, it will be possible to choose to use visual material as a support.

      Another technique that we can use is adapt teaching to their way of learningIn other words, since the child learns to read by memorizing, we can choose to break down what he reads or says into shorter sentences or words and explain what it means (or help him discover what it means). Gradually, we will withdraw the subsidies, in order to finally be able to generalize the procedures learned and to follow their learning in an increasingly autonomous way.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Martos, J. and Help, R. (2003). Autism and hyperlexia. Journal of Neurology, V International Refresher Course in Child Neuropediatrics and Neuropsychology, 36 (1): 57.
      • Roldán, MJ (2018). What is hyperlexia and how to detect it. Self-help resources.

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