Hyperlexia & Discipline

I can honestly say that generally Paul and I have a really positive attitude when it comes to Neiva. The seeming lack of social interaction or conversation doesn’t seem to overly concern us when we see how gifted she is in other areas. We can see her improving day after day with her conversational skills so as her development is heading in the right direction, we tend to not to over analyse the situation.

However, when as a mother, you get to a point where you think “I actually don’t know what to do about this” fear overtakes. I have struggled and felt completely lost and helpless in one particular area. An area where, in Neiva’s case, whichever route I take could either help or hinder her progress so far, and this left me terrified.


Over pretty much the month of May, absolutely nothing I said or did seemed to resonate with Neiva. I read forums and books, sometimes into the early hours, that dealt with the standard straightforward discipline tricks and tips for a neurotypical child. This, in hindsight, was a mistake. I tried patiently repeating myself to her. When that didn’t work, I resorted to raising my voice and using trusted key words like “enough” (which I only use at a total exasperated breaking point) which served me well in the past but even this didn’t have the same impact as before. Basic generic reward charts whilst great in the beginning started to wane as the week went on. The naughty step, whilst still enabling her to say sorry became a carousel of repeated bad behaviour; naughty step, say sorry, bad behaviour, naughty step, say sorry. You get the picture!

Interestingly, the “simmer down chair”, that we use when she is struggling to express her emotions and needs a time out still seemed to work, although anything that relates to Charlie & Lola is always a winner with Neiva.

My concern was if she isn’t listening to me with the little things, how can I trust her to listen to the big things. I could feel I was losing control of the situation. I couldn’t remember in the heat of the moment what worked and what didn’t, my reprimand wasn’t consistent, my ramblings became longer and longer and it was only when I looked at her beautiful confused eyes, did it hit me. She had no clue what she had done to warrant my rant! After a heavy dose of mummy guilt whilst holding her tightly through tears, I vowed to find a way to resolve this.

“Enough” was indeed, enough and I found myself on the receiving end of my own discipline. I needed to speak to the only group of people that would be able to help. The Hyperlexia Support Group.

The response I got was pretty overwhelming. Not only were there strategies I’d never even thought about, there were others (if I’d just thought a little harder at Neiva’s areas of strength) were glaringly obvious. I am happy to report we are now back on track. Here are a few of my tried and tested favourites so far;

For reward charts with my hyperlexic twins we focused on choosing a favourite number and getting toward that (counting in 5’s if it was a big number) or having a word that they could earn the letters of the word by good behaviour. Once they got the letters of the word or reached the number they could choose a toy from the reward box (a shoe box covered in coloured paper and filled with junk from the $2 shop… I would try to reward the good rather than punish the bad – NATASHA

Why wasn’t I utilising Neiva’s gift of letters and numbers? She loves counting her five times table at the moment and loves discovering the words in letters. Instead of a reward box we have a reward jar with all her favourite things to do (go for icecream, make jam tarts, go to the cinema, have a picnic, go to her favourite little toy shop). What an amazing way to implement a reward chart.


I wrote some house rules. Each rule was a letter. For example A. No splashing water out of the bath. B. Always hold hands when crossing the road. Etc. There were no more than 10 rules. If he broke a rule he had to go to his thought space (bottom stair), where the rules were posted and he reread them – LUDO

I loved the idea of house rules. Again this involves utilising her reading gift and a love of the alphabet. The “thought space” is such a positive spin on the dreaded naughty step and I absolutely love that it involves rereading the house rules. Again, positive reinforcement is working well for our children here.

When I first found out what Hyperlexia was I read somewhere that if they haven’t seen it written it may not exist. So we started writing everything down. Lists work great for completing tasks and as mentioned above “house rules” have been really beneficial to use – ERIKA

This has been the advice that has really struck a chord with me more than anything. This advice is key to anyone understanding a child with hyperlexia. We now reinforce an instruction by writing it down and showing her. Neiva’s teacher unknowingly confirmed this when she told me how well she had adjusted when changing to a new activity table in class. As her classmates are just learning to read, pictures are placed on various activity tables. (I.e a picture of a cake for the “baking table”) so they are easy to find. These pictures now include a written instruction underneath.

We’ve also implemented this for times we are out of the house. I’ll now regularly type an instruction into the notes section on my iPhone and show it to her to reinforce what I’ve asked.

Since my son has always responded to numbers I do a count down from ten . If he’s not doing what he’s supposed to I start counting ! By the time I reach three or two he’s usually trotting off to bed or doing what he’s supposed to do . Maybe this technique will help? – JENNIFER

“I’m going to count to three…..” was something that never worked with Neiva. However, reverse the numbers from 10 and it’s a very different story. This, to my total amazement, really works for us. We use it if she is taking her sweet time to do something or if she is being purposely slow.

Its now mid July and I feel back in control again. Yes, there are times where I feel she is starting to fall back into her May habits. Instead of encouraging that helpless feeling again I have to remember the well known parenting phrase “before you can expect your child to listen, you really need to listen to your child.” I’ve learnt over these past few months that there is always a reason behind Neiva’s behaviour and unlike a neurotypical child that can just tell a parent what is bothering them, we have to ask Neiva in a different way which requires a lot of time and a lot of patience. By implementing the above strategies which are catered especially to her and her hyperlexia, this has eased her anxiety so much that when a situation arises that calls for discipline, its easy to discover what the problem is. By using strategies that she loves, she is a much more happy and contented child.

I want to say a special thank you to the parents on the Hyperlexia Support Group. They are a continuing source of help and encouragement. Hyperlexia is a beautiful gift for sure, but it does comes with many challenges. If you suspect your child has hyperlexia and need help or advice on where to go from here, please contact Dyan RobsonĀ here.