Your child's remarkable gifts and abilities may cause you to question whether any intervention is needed. After all, your child may be speaking well about things of interest to them, know lots of great information that they should not for their age. People may even remark that they are so "smart". Many children with hyperlexic tendencies are easy going, and able to handle transitions and change so long as they have their favorite letter, a writing pad, or a favorite ipad game. Going to the grocery store can be fun when your little wunderkind is spouting off the aisle numbers, reading food labels, and pointing out when something is on sale.
Intervention concerns sometimes dawn on parents when they realize that this same little reader cannot fully ask for what they want, or at the age of three when they are not yet telling their parents what they did, and who they played with in preschool. Poor eye contact may become noticeable, or a general lack of conversational speech.
Whatever the point of recognition is, the right kind of intervention is crucial to the long-term outcome of children with hyperlexia. Intervention at an early age can often be the difference between long-term communication issues, and academic issues in the areas of reading comprehension and vocabulary. Some children with hyperlexia go on to get and maintain an autism diagnosis, others who are provided intervention early (that may require an autism diagnosis) are able to appear fairly typically developing, dropping many or all of their signs of autism by middle childhood.
Intervention, therefore, is VERY Important.
Building an Intervention Team
It is important to consider those that work with your child, including yourself, as members of a team. Each child needs a team of teachers, therapists, and outside supports that is unique to them. Some children need certain therapies and not others. Below are recommended considerations when choosing an intervention team for a child with hyperlexia.
Trust yourself. You know your child better than anyone else. Be sure that anyone that works with your child is someone you trust and that you and they both understand their role in working with your child.
Choose people that see hyperlexia (early letter and word recognition) as an asset and not a liability.
Choose therapists and programs that specifically address your child's actual developmental deficits, not "pathologising normal." For example, if a therapist concludes that your three year old is playing inappropriately because they are playing next to, rather than with, a friend, this is pathologising normal development as this is not seen as abnormal until a child is past the age of three and a half.
Do not choose anyone that says their program is a "cure all". For children with atypical cognitive profiles, no one program will be a fix all. A combination of different interventions over time have the best outcome.
Choose team members whose methods and programs complement, not contradict one another. Be sure they are willing to communicate, supporting one another's efforts as needed.
Avoid pre-packaged "brain training" programs. While neuroplasticity and the ability for the brain to change and grow is a genuine phenomena that should not be discounted, many brain training "centers" are based on outdated science, misuse valid therapeutic techniques by having under-trained tutors implement the methods, and have clients/customers step away not having generalized what they learned within the walls of the center.
Best-Practice Therapies for Hyperlexia
Speech Therapy- Speech therapists may be one of the greatest assets you can have when looking for interventions for your child. Many speech therapists are very familiar with hyperlexic tendencies, but depending on the therapist, may view hyperlexia in more or less of a positive light. Interviewing a speech therapist or two before you make a decision on who should evaluate your child may help you to determine who would be the ideal therapist to work with your child. Occupational Therapy- Occupational theraists can be a great asset for some children with hyperlexia who may show signs of sensory over-sensitivity, under-sensitivity, gross/fine motor difficulties, or difficulties with core strength. Applied Behavioral Analysis- Some children with hyperlexia progress well with speech therapy alone. Others may benefit from ABA. Some areas that ABA can help in include helping them to attend to teaching, helping them learn life skills like potty training, changing clothes, etc, and following a classroom routine. It is important to find an ABA therapist who works to use hyperlexia and letter interest as a means of motivation and that word recognition and reading may be the best way to teach new skills. Be sure that they are willing and able to communicate actively with your child's speech therapist. Educators- Whether in a preschool, school, or tutoring situation, a teacher or educational therapist may provide great opportunities in the way of enriched learning experiences, and opportunities to connect with typically developing peers. They will need to be familiar with or become familiarized with hyperlexia and how language may be an area of difficulty for your child.