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.“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