Children that are typical processors take in spoken language before they can even speak, begin to process what they hear and build language from the bottom-up. They identify words like "mommy", "daddy", and "kitty", then begin to combine words into phrases and sentences. Children with hyperlexia often have difficulty breaking spoken language up into meaningful chunks. Rather they are "gestalt language learners". The word gestalt means "whole". These children attach meaning to whole phrases or chunks of words. "Its time to go to bed" may be heard as "Itstimetogotobed", which is what a kid hears before they go to their bedroom to sleep. It is possible that these children then gravitate toward print because they have stronger visual processing and memory, and feel comfortable with the finite, predictable print, over confusing spoken language. The Print-to-Speech Approach, which is advocated for in various forms by many experienced speech therapists, helps to make the spoken word more meaningful by attaching it to print.
The Power of the Print-To-Speech Approach
Whether hyperlexic processors, or typical processors, children's early years are a critical preparation time for later learning experiences. This is a time when children gain a basic foundation of knowledge and social skills that support further learning and development as they get older. Children with hyperlexia may find themselves in a classroom with children that process langauge in a more typical way, only to miss important concepts and social teaching that is easily absorbed by their peers. Teachers may be completely unaware that a child has missed information. After all, they are "so smart", they know all of the letters, can answer questions about shapes, and can be quietly engaged in books or writing activities.
These children then, as they get older, are at a disadvantage when it comes to vocabulary and language skills because they received a weak language foundation.
If a child that is hearing impaired entered a classroom for typical children, it is assumed that they would need supports in order to understand the world around them. Further steps are taken to be sure that they are taking in and communicating, often through a "total communication" approach that allows them to connect fully with the world.
Children with hyperlexia often seem "typical" and "smart" and don't receive the supports they need in order to develop a stronger knowledge base.
Teaching using a hyperlexic child's first language, the printed word, can have a powerful and dramatic effect on how they interact with the world around them.
Hyperlexia By the Book is all about empowering parents with the resources they need to teach their child using their child's first language.