Hyperlexia: My journey to understanding the condition.
Most parents whose children have a learning challenge look at me with a blank stare when I mention the term Hyperlexia. The same seems to be true with the professionals working in the learning disability field.
Why am I concerned you may ask. I am hyperlexic and I don’t want youngsters (or oldsters, as a matter of fact) to be mis-diagnosed or partially diagnosed as I was twenty years ago. It frequently happens. When the tester or the learning disability specialist isn’t aware of hyperlexia they lump the child or adult into the dyslexic category. Why? Both hyperlexia and dyslexia are conditions that affect reading.
Let’s review. Dyslexia means one has a hard time reading words, sounding them out and probably has a poor vocabulary. On the other hand, hyperlexia describes an individual who has difficulty comprehending what they are reading because the individual is not capable of imaging the words they are reading.
Here’s an example. If someone says: the cat has a pink tail that wiggles, a hyperlexic sees the words but not the images of the cat. Imaging gets much more challenging with complex words.
I was diagnosed as dyslexic twenty-five years ago when in my forties. The testing office said there was nothing that could be done. I began searching. I discovered quite quickly that I had mastered sounding out words, reading words, and knew I had an excellent vocabulary. It made me wonder. Why am I a dyslexic? No one had a response. I decided that the problem was psychological and embarked on several years of inner exploration. And, I was advised to remove refined sugar from my diet. Both the psychological work and the elimination of refined sugar improved my condition some.
In my mid-sixties I attended a lecture given by Nanci Bell of Lindamood-Bell who described the differences between dyslexia and Hyperlexia. I knew immediately that I was Hyperlexic. Yes, comprehension was my problem. Testing at Lindamood-Bell revealed I had Grade Three reading comprehension skills (and I graduated from the Yale University Drama School).
Parents: here are some tricks that we, hyperlexics, use to mask our condition:
- When we are talking with another and we don’t understand what is being said we change the subject, or we ask questions hoping that we will get it.
- We talk in generalities.
- We don’t remember what we see or hear and get the person to describe the scene again.
- We use a word, phrase or sentence hoping we are close to what is being demanded.
- We take a long time to get a word. I find people get impatient waiting for me to say what I know so I will jump in with a phrase praying I am close rather than waiting for the word to come.
Skills a hyperlexic has that makes expressing ourselves difficult for us:
- We are very good at FEELING the whole picture of what is going on in a situation. These feelings can be difficult to verbalize sometimes because:
- We don’t safe in describing what we see.
- There is so much jumbled in our brain and feel we must rush so we make up phrases. e.g. “There are one too many few.” This was a phrase I said to a waitress when a teenager meaning – there are too many of us and too few chairs. This strange way of expressing myself began happening frequently. My parent began calling them Annisms.
Once I discovered the accurate diagnose I took three steps.
- I signed up for the verbalizing and visualizing training at Lindamood-Bell. http://www.lindamoodbell.com. It was very difficult to learn how to image but I moved myself from Grade Three to Grade Nine reading comprehension level.
- I worked with the Masgutova Method to correct my reflexes that were not functioning correctly. http://masgutovamethod.com. An individual’s reflexes are developed while in utero and during the first three years of life. I discovered that twelve of mine were not operating at optimal level (e.g.) I was unable to crawl when lying on the floor – my left side reflexes did not work. I decided to combine my emotional issues with the reflex corrections. It was an arduous process but my reflexes corrected over a year and a half.
- Simultaneously I worked with a friend weekly on reading, utilizing the Lindamood-Bell techniques. It was a painstaking process. Once my reflexes corrected themselves, my emotional behavior balanced itself and I became a more confident as a reader. My friend was truly a saint.
In summary, comprehending what I read is still challenging. I have to be bold asking my friends to give me an image or images to describe a word they used when the meaning isn’t clear to me.
I hope my experience with Hyperlexia gives you some tools as you help your child or yourself with reading or aural comprehension. My wish is that the term Hyperlexia becomes a common phrase in the learning disability lexicon. And, parents, when having your child tested be sure the testing officer is skilled in testing for hyperlexia.
For more information on my experience check out the article I wrote which is posted on this website. http://dyslexiadiscovery.com/dyslexia-hyperlexia-and-beyond.
Kathy Johnson’s book The Roadmap from Learning Disabilities to Success is simple in form, short in length and long in information.
Being challenged by both dyslexia and hpyerlexia I am not overly fond of reading. I do it, I can do it, but you don’t often find me choosing it. The format of Kathy’s book made reading the content easy. It’s as though she chose to present it for learning challenged adults reading skills. Kathy’s book succinctly describes success stories and provides a checklist for parents to consider.
I find it interesting that she has made the links that I made as I progressed through my process of overcoming the negatives of dyslexia and many years later hyperlexia. At the outset she provides the order and importance of various approaches using a Pyramid of Potential. The base of the pyramid is Mind and Body. I too, through my own experimentation and with advice of others started my healing with these two topics.
I was particularly excited to see how effective her work is with patient’s reflexes – those that normally develop while the baby is in utero and the first three years of life. I came across this technique shortly after I learned (six years ago) that I have hyperlexia. I had already taken the Lindamood-Bell verbalizing and visualizing process but it wasn’t until after a year a half of correcting my many reflexes that were under-developed did I find much more peace around the hyperlexia. I strongly support a parent having a child with learning challenges checked for the development of the child’s reflexes.
Kathy’s Roadmap also gives good explanations of eye issues and has several useful suggestions on how to better eye problems. I loved her description of the use of a Brain Gym technique – lazy eights – a technique I have frequently implemented.
As you can see I relate to Kathy’s work because her tools are many of the ones I have been fortunate to come across. The uniqueness of Kathy is that she has integrated them together and created a broad spectrum of skills to help her clients. It is this approach that she describes in her book, The Roadmap from Learning Disabilities to Success. I would recommend this book to any parent whose child has learning challenges.
To learn more go to: www.PyramidofPotential.com, PO Box 103, Burnt Hills, NY 12027, telephone: 518 585 2007
Welcome: You have come upon a blog whose focus is primarily offering tools for dyslexics and hyperlexics. I have both conditions. The material is also germane for parents and therapists. The topic, this time, is hyperlexia and dyslexia on-line resources. Some of these contacts I have had first hand experience and others not. I indicate the latter.
This website provides details on the Masgutova Method – an approach that considers the health of reflexes of a child and an adult. Her techniques to correct under-developed reflexes was a major component in my overcoming the negatives of hyperlexia.
An excellent support group for parents, therapists interested in or working with the Masgutova Method.
This organization provides excellent dyslexia and hyperlexia assessments and offers effective tools to overcome the mechanics of both conditions.
An organization founded by a dyslexic thirty or more years ago and offers movement exercises that are very effective in dealing with learning issues.
http://www.dyslexia-program.com. This is a British Newsletter that comes out bi-monthly. Written byJohn Bradford the online newsletter has 28,000 subscribers.
A San Francisco-based organization assembled by parents of dyslexics, ADD etc. They are very active, presenting an ongoing program of resources for parents as well as programs for learning challenged children.
I came across this website. It has an interesting article on dyslexia, hyperlexia and other topics. The author is succinct in her presentation and the information useful.
http://www.interdys.org/ An international organization focussed only on dyslexia. It’s large and has a major annual meeting. I find the information they offer is very limited in scope. They are hesitant to introduce any approaches that have not been through the scientific process. As a result they are not a progressive group.
Mr. Vance writes a newspaper column about people with disabilities. He focusses on writing their personal story from their viewpoint avoiding the trap of making them out to be victims or superheroes. He sees them just as people. He did an article on my story and it was very geniune. This is the link to the story: http://www.danieljvance.com/disabledweek402a.html
I read about this organization from a newspaper report describing the ability of a 12 year-old, Laura Miles, to overcome her dyslexia and coordination problems. The article reported that Dore’s process offers “a series of simple exercises designed to target an area of the brain called the cerebellum. Dore believes the cerebellum is the root cause of learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia (developmental coordination disorder), ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome.
Laura had to do exercises for 10 minutes, twice a day, in the morning and at night. Her exercises included juggling bean bags – for eye-tracking and to help co-ordination; a wobble board – to help stimulate and improve balance; and an eye chart – to give the person different things to focus on.”
These exercises sound very much like the Brain Gym approach which I found very helpful.
I came upon the Being Dyslexic website found their material helpful. This site provides a range of dyslexia information for people of all ages and situations who are either dyslexic or interested in dyslexia. Everything on Being Dyslexic is free and accessible for anyone to use and share. Being Dyslexic also hosts one of the largest dyslexia community forums on the internet. They suggest: why not “pop along” (very British phrase) today and discuss dyslexia with other people!
A mother reports on her discovery that her child had excess histamine in the body. She feels this condition is a part of the reason of her child’s hyperlexia.
I came across this website as they picked my article. It’s valuable for teachers.
This website offers a free newsletter (they have 30,000 subscribers). John Bradford is the editor and has over thirty years experience of working with children, teenagers, college students and dyslexic adults; he has worked as a lecturer in education, as a school principal/head teacher, and has been involved in advising, counseling and teaching dyslexic children and adults from age 4 to age 72! The site covers dyslexia testing and assessment, teaching dyslexic children, advice for parents of a dyslexic child, coping techniques for dyslexic adults, free magazine articles, research, and much, much more.
If you have topics that you would like me to address about my experience in overcoming dyslexia and hyperlexia feel free to send your ideas through the comments below.
Information on this blog is intended to complement, not replace, the advice of your own physician or health care professional