Tootles is a reader. He loves books. I think part of this love stems out of the fact that it can be an extension of something in which he shows great interest. I started “reading” books with him when he was not even a year old. One of his earliest interests was fruit.
Think about it. Fruit is simple, pure, fun and educational. The geometry, colors, flavors and textures are perfect teaching tools full of excitement. Some of his first books were “picture” dictionaries. He would spend hours looking a books with photos of fruit. His sister gave him plastic fruit for Christmas and he was full of joy.
We worked from fruit to planets and “space”, to construction vehicles, cars, weaved in a few stories and books with his favorite Nick Jr. characters and he had his manna from heaven. Amongst the electronic toys that gave him a mastery of phonics, books with colorful pictures and words, and constant streaming of captioning always left in the “on” position for television viewing, my son learned to read and started to spell by the time he was two years old.
In the time I’ve been writing posts for this blog, I’ve never written a story about my son’s love of books and reading. It’s always been an “in passing”. Sometimes, I will mention that he is “hyperlexic” intended to convey that he could read beyond the level of his neurotypical peers.
I had a great deal of concern earlier this year about whether he was comprehending what he was reading because he did not communicate about the stories he read. I’ve come to recognize that he is “getting” it but there is delay in processing my questions and his responses.
In order to facilitate his reading, his ABA tutors are running programs where he matches pictures of people, places and events to an oral story. As he masters these, the exercises become more complex. The stories are longer. There are videos to watch and questions to answer.
The comprehension issue came up when my son’s kindergarten teacher decided to test his comprehension after reading three chapters. The story was about a visually impaired man and his service dog, Ron (the man) and Lab (the dog). When I first asked questions to my son about who the man was, he did not pay attention and said “Lab.”
My worries were needless. He did pick it up. Even today, months after that story was read, I asked him about it for this post, and he knew who Ron was and Lab was.
According to a group of psychologists at Yale, here, hyperlexia is a”superability” rather than a disability. Another group of researchers at Georgetown discovered a neural basis for hyperlexic reading through an fMRI case study which you can read about here. In that case study, the authors warn that data is minimal but one study indicates the statistic of 2.2 people per 10,000 are hyperlexic in the general population.
Hyperlexia” is defined as children who read at levels beyond those expected for their mental age in the face of disordered oral communication. According to the Georgetown study, there are three consistent features of hyperlexia: (1) the presence of a developmental disorder of communication, most commonly an autism spectrum disorder; (2) acquisition of reading skill prior to age five without explicit instruction; and (3) advanced word recognition ability relative to mental age, with reading comprehension on par with verbal ability
Some of the other interesting information from that case study includes this:
“Although hyperlexic children may not comprehend all that they read, print can still become an important route by which they communicate because attention to text is more reliable than attention to voice.”
“Outcomes for verbal ability and IQ are better for autistic children with hyperlexia than for other autistic children, possibly because reading provides an additional route for communication and socialization.”
The study itself was of a boy who was age 9 at the time of the study and who did not speak until he was age 4. He had Lovaas based ABA therapy 25-40 hours per week until age 7. At the time of the study, he had a high IQ and read well beyond his same aged peers. His functional MRI showed highly activated areas of the brain. The study concluded that it suggests precocious reading is associated with hyperactivation of left posterior superior temporal cortex, just as impaired reading in dyslexia is associated with hypoactivation of regions surrounding the posterior superior temporal cortex.
Regardless of how he does it, my son loves a good book. While I usually refrain from recommending much of anything (other than a competent pediatric neurologist) on this blog, I will tell you about my son’s very favorite new book called Pete the Cat – I Love My White Shoes.
This book is by Eric Litwin and if you don’t know about it yet (like me) you MUST get this book for your child. Pete gets new white shoes and steps in a bunch of stuff, changing the color of his shoes. But get this – he never loses his cool! He goes with the flow. How many of us could use that social story? The most awesome part of this book is that if you click here, you can hear the whole story with the song for FREE! And the book is available through Scholastic.com in soft cover for $4.99! (I was not compensated in any way for these remarks, by the way). I’m just lucky enough to have a cousin who is a reading specialist teacher for a school district in Washington State and sent my son a copy of the book (amongst others!) for his birthday.
My little bookworm is a busy guy these days. But regardless of your child’s ability to read, reading is awesome. I recommend reading a book to your child every day. It’s a great way to bond, relax, cuddle and teach.