Social Stories, Sequencing & The Supermarket

For the most part Neiva is such a laid back and quiet natured girl. However, when anxiety strikes, its strikes sudden and loud. Anxiety for Neiva is most common when we are at a supermarket. Most people assume it’s a sensory overload of noise but noise isn’t something that worries Neiva. Its busy crowds.

As she looks older than her tender age of five, random loud outbursts can be really embarrassing. To a random passerby, in that moment, she can look like a child with a bratty attitude. She certainly isnt that. Her true personality is anything but.

I don’t need parenting approval from strangers but I certainly don’t want someone going away talking about the “spoilt child in the supermarket today…” when it is something that she has no control over. I also needed to know the difference between a outburst due to stress and anxiety and a deliberate willful disobedient one.

We needed to make some adjustments and like everything else in life, its all about the preparation.

  • First we changed supermarkets from a big store to a smaller one. Neiva is very rarely overwhelmed in our smaller supermarket. It’s familiar, quiet and she knows where everything is.
  • I always try to have a list with me to make sure our shop is done quickly and efficiently.
  • We always try to do the same routine from going through the same door to the same path of aisles (as it’s a small store, it doesn’t take us long)
  • Neiva is in charge of the pull along basket and I get her to look for the things we need which distracts her for a little while and if I’m really organised that day (and because of her reading ability), there may be a written list.
  • We will always finish at the same bank of self service checkouts by the magazines so she can go look at them whilst I quickly run my shopping through at the side of her.

Social Stories & Sequencing

 Social Stories are great for preparing a child for any regular real life situation.

Using these stories and sequences she is able to know what’s coming next, eliminating any frustration and calming any anxiety. I made one especially for our supermarket trip and will add more destinations as and when I feel there’s a need.

You will see from the story that I haven’t written anything in the last box. This is for when we have time to go to the cafe afterwards. Neiva would be able to read anything I put in the last box and would then be expecting to go to the cafe every single time. By keeping it clear gives me the flexibility on days where I am pressed for time.

It is only a quickly made basic visual and because it’s made of card and paper it’s a bit scruffy and sorry looking. I will  update this shopping social story for a new one when my weeks of hinting to Paul for a laminator has finally paid off!

For more information on social stories click here. For help creating social stories specifically catered to children with hyperlexia click here

Hyperlexia & Reading Comprehension

Neiva’s ability to read literally came out of nowhere. I think we really started to notice when she was almost 3. We were reading a lovely book called “Ten in the Bed” when she just spontaneously started to read, word for word!

At first we put it down to her knowing the familiar song. However, in this book, the words were slightly different to the song she knew and sang so well. We continued to try different books and the outcome was always the same. She read the words with total ease!
As time went on and the more she read, the more we realised that she in fact had an extraordinary visual and auditory memory and was using this to “read”. Despite this fluent decoding of the written word, we weren’t actually sure whether she was actually understanding what she was reading. Now we were facing another issue – comprehension.

Children with hyperlexia do find it hard to understand:

  • Pronouns (they will most likely use reverse pronouns. They may also refer to themselves in the third person).
  • Inferences (not being able to read between the lines and draw conclusions)
  • Echolalia (parroting long sentences and phrases without necessarily understand its meaning)
  • Emotion in the story (being able to interprete what the person might be feeling)

Now Neiva is older, she is successfully working her way through this list. It is still an ongoing process. She still struggles with inferences, and she will use echolalia when she is anxious but she will get there in her own time and is heading in the right direction. We are so proud of how far she has come in such a short space of time.

Strategies that can help reading comprehension…

A story preview… So before we begin reading a new book, instead of jumping right into the words, we would begin by looking at the cover, the title and the pictures inside. This is great for getting her to vocalise her own ideas as to where the story is going. By going over the story briefly also gives structure and sequence, something that Neiva particularly really thrives on.

Making Connections… An important part of reading comprehension is for a child to make the connection between the text and their own experiences. So, using the story of red riding hood as an example, when talking about the forest, Neiva can relate to the sights sounds and smells of her own experiences playing in the wood. That particular experience will help connect her to the story and in turn help her to comprehend the words she is reading.

Recap… As mentioned in a previous post children with hyperlexia struggle to answer “wh” questions (where, when, why, what and who) so to ascertain how much Neiva has understood when reading something new has to be done in a different way. Instead of asking for example “why did red riding hood walk through the forest?” I would have to say “red riding hood went through the forest because…” and she would then finish that sentence.

Neiva is learning to respond to “wh” questions. Usually, we will practice these when reading a story she knows well, as she already has the answers she just needs to know how to respond to the question.

Charlie & Lola: Ep. “I slightly want to go home”

“I went to the moon” game…  This game is played by Lola and Lotta in an episode of Charlie & Lola. The first person (usually Neiva) starts by saying “I went to the moon and I brought an apple” The next person would then say “I went to the moon and I brought an apple and a mermaid” and it continues until one person can’t remember the list (usually me). I love this game because not only does it encourages a continued conversation, it also teaches her the proper use of pronouns. “I (instead of mummy/neiva) went to the moon” Finally, it encourages turn taking which is great for Neiva who gravitates to solitary play.

You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book

– Dr Seuss



Family Forest Play


Anyone who knows Neiva, knows just how much more relaxed she is when she is outside. She has such an affinity with nature and all its beautiful elements. It’s almost like she can breathe when she’s outside, you can physically see it. Like a release from a prison of air and noise pollution and into a pitch where sights and sounds are soothing and a comfort to her.

More and more research is showing the health benefits of playing in nature. Of course it makes perfect sense when you sit down and think about it. For children with sensory issues modern day living is like you or I going around with an artificial strip light attached to our eyes all day. Contrast that with the serene tranquility of stepping into beautiful woodland. No honking horns, no petrol fumes, no wifi crackling above our heads, just open quiet space. Where all the colours of the forest are restful to the eyes, the sound of rustling trees and beautiful bird song are a delight to the ears and the woody scent of tree bark sail past the nose encouraging an involuntary deep breathe in. Complete relaxation.

Nature’s Footprints Forest Play and Education are a Yorkshire based enterprise doing great work in the local community. We had the pleasure of meeting the very wonderful Jo who runs Natures Footprints. Her dedication passion and enthusiasm just shines though and her love of nature and the children she teaches is just infectious. A former teacher, she trained as a Forest School practitioner in 2007. Her belief in the values and significance of play, in “having the choice to follow your own ideas, be instrumental in assessing and managing your own risks and in understanding the importance of physical, mental and emotional well-being have taken her on a journey she could never have envisioned”. Today’s forest play session took place in the beautiful surroundings of Beaumont Park in Huddersfield.

Firstly, we formed a circle and had a little introduction icebreaker.  The children were then allowed to roam and explore their surroundings almost immediately.

I took a walk into the woods and came out taller than the trees – Henry David Thoreau

The children then all ran off in different directions, running, jumping and even rolling down the hill, safely cushioned by a leaf carpet. Some older children started to make a den. Neiva did her usual thing and explored the perimeter. What I found lovely about the whole lesson was if the children wanted to take part in group activities they could, if the children wanted to explore on their own, that was encouraged too. No rigid rules, no “I talk, you listen”mentality. Complete freedom to roam and discover.

We did all get called together for snack time. The children all sat around a camping stove on fallen logs. Neiva watched excitedly as the popcorn popped on the stove. It was lovely to all get together and hear what the children had foraged so far on their adventure. After snack time, our teacher for today, Lisa explained what we could expect from the next part of the session. Again, these activities were completely voluntary, if the children wanted to take part they could. The activities for this session included:

  • making various bird feeders
  • making a bird hide and observing
  • setting up hammocks between the trees
  • den building

Time really does fly when your having fun because the morning went so quickly and we were sad for it to end. Neiva was too. All the way back to the car we had the song “were going on a bear hunt….a deep dark forest….thick oozy mud…” on repeat and through tears, she was very upset to leave.

We will be back. We will be counting down the days until the next monthly family forest play. Jo believes every child from every background should be able to attend. The cost of Family Forest sessions is just £5 per child plus adult donations. Healthy snacks and drinks and all tools and materials are provided at no extra charge. Jo and her team really do this solely out of complete love of what they do and the children they teach.

What To Bring

  • Waterproof coat and boots
  • A change of clothes
  • A small lunchtime snack (although snacks and drinks are provided)

If you are interested in taking part in Family Forest Play or any of the other of the outdoor learning events and live in the Yorkshire area, please contact Jo or follow on facebook to keep up to date with the various upcoming events.

“WH” Question Training…

It is common among children with hyperlexia that they particularly struggle to answer the “wh” questions; what, where, why, when and who.

With Neiva, in every day speech we use statements rather than questions. This is fine for the meantime as it enables her to communicate her needs to us but obviously she does need to be taught to understand this particular area for her long term development.

In the same way other children need to learn to read and write, Neiva has to be taught to understand and respond to “wh” questions.

I downloaded 100 “WH” question flip cards by TeachersPayTeachers and printed them onto card. I then made a green “correct” coin for Neiva to place over the right answer and of course being a superstar reader, she read the questions beautifully.

The only downside I can see to this is that I will have to find new questions sooner rather than later, as she will quickly memorise the answers.

Nevertheless, it made for an interesting afternoon activity and if we have a little practice everyday I feel we will see major improvements in her comprehension of what “wh” questions are and how to incorporate them into daily life.

Neiva does have iPad apps that do the same thing,  however I wanted to take some time away from the iPad as it can be very isolating for her. This way it felt more like teamwork between the two of us, which only adds to improving her social skills.