Patreon members and YouTube channel members had access to this video on May 31, 2022. The video’s public release will be August 10, 2022.
I was one and a half years old when my family discovered that I had been teaching myself to read.
From the backseat of the family pickup truck on a road trip, I sat with a map unfolded across my small lap. The map was larger than me, and I sat reading the names of cities on the map.
Once I had exhausted the names I could pronounce, I then began reading street signs that were passing as we drove down the road. You can imagine the shock, awe, and surprise, of the adults who had no idea that I, at the age of one and a half, could even read.
“Wow. That’s so strange. I didn’t know they could do that!”
What IS hyperlexia, and what does having this brain language processing difference mean for those who are hyperlexic?
I’m a hyperlexical Autistic, and this week I am going to be sharing my experience with hyperlexia, what hyperlexia is, and what that means for those of us who are hyperlexic.
If you would like to know more, please do stay tuned.
Before we go too much further, I want to give a definition of hyperlexia and I’m going to give a medical definition, and then I’m going to go back and humanize what it’s like to be a person who experiences hyperlexia.
Today I’m going to be talking specifically about hyperlexia II, which is hyperlexia occurring with Autistic People, specifically.
According to Web MD, which is where I’m going to get the definition today, people with hyperlexia II, are often air quotes, “obsessed with numbers and letters, preferring books, and magnetic letters over other types of toys. They’re also frequently remember important numbers such as license plates and birthdates. These children usually have more typical autism signs, such as avoiding eye contact and affection, or being sensitive to sensory stimuli.”
Right off the bat, looking at that definition of hyperlexia II; the one thing that was very, very, true for me here is: “preferring books and magnetic letters over toys” and other types of things to play with as a child.
My magnetic letters and my guardian’s magnetic poetry where some of my favorite things to play with on our refrigerator, in my childhood home growing up.
The other thing I would do is: I would sit for hours alone, listening to, and reading books. I had some of those little cassette tapes, when you would put it in and listen to it along with the book.
Also eventually, once I learned to read, I didn’t need the cassette tape to read for me.
But books, reading, and words, were little- literally one of my first Autistic interests, one of my first Autistic air quotes, “obsessions”. I was obsessed with learning all of the words.
I think it’s interesting that it also says that we remember important numbers, such as license plates and birth dates.
I am really bad at remembering birth dates. That is not true for me, at least with birth dates, but, my partner and I are constantly talking about and noticing license plates, and making words out of them.
I don’t necessarily remember. I wish I could remember.
I can’t remember my license plate number for my vehicle. I have to go look at it, every time I have to write it down. I can’t remember it and it’s only seven numbers. I don’t know. I can’t remember it.
So I don’t remember license plates, but signs, numbers, anything with words or letters, it does stick out to me, and grabbed my attention. I find anything with text, or print, or numbers, to be very distracting to me, if I need to be focusing on anything else, because it’s just like, “boom, over here, over here. Look at me over here.”
Some important notes, I want to make sure I say before, moving on: that you can be hyperlexic and not be Autistic. That’s really important to note. Although, among Autistic children, according to Web MD, they estimate that “6% to 14% of us have hyperlexia”, or are hyperlexic as well as being Autistic. It says that “approximately 84% of children with hyperlexia are also Autistic.”
If you’re hyperlexic, it’s likely you’re Autistic, but not necessarily true… and if you’re Autistic, you have a higher chance of being hyperlexic, but it’s not the majority of Autistic People who are hyperlexic. The majority of hyperlexic people are Autistic.
Being Autistic means you are likely not just Autistic. If you’re Autistic, many of us have more than one NeuroType, in addition to being Autistic.
I’m Autistic. I am hyperlexic. I’m ADHD. I have an anxiety disorder, in addition to the other physical health problems that I have.
You can be Autistic and Hyperlexic. You can be Autistic and Dyslexic. You can be Autistic and Dyspraxic, you can be Autistic and Apraxic.
A lot of these things, that can come with being Autistic are going to impact language, communication, and motor control.
Hyperlexia is a communication difference. That impacts the way I process communication. My reading comprehee-hension has always been far above my spoken comprehension.
I don’t know how much of this has to do with the fact that I also have auditory processing disorder, which means I don’t process spoken speech, accurately word for word.
Sometimes people talking sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown, especially in a busy or loud environment, such as a school office, or other place where human beings gather. These things impact the ingoing- ingoing communication.
The hyperlexia is me taking in communication through my eyes. I am much more adapt at taking in communication through my eyes, than through my ears.
Because I’m ADHD, in addition to being Autistic and hyperlexic, the executive functioning, the ability to hold details in my head, is tricky. So being able to have something that I can process visually, and having the book, or the visual notes with me to take away, is just so much better for my ability to take in, and process, information.
The other thing about hyperlexia is: I am not just impacted on how I process incoming information, my outgoing communication is much better in writing than it is spoken.
A lot of the videos that I do are me scripting, or talking about things I’ve already spoken about before. So I am remembering things that I’ve written, and I’m sharing my written communications.
As an Autistic Person, I did a lot of this growing up and used it for scripting and creating these social scripts, and planning out all of these possible conversations like, “oh, the conversation goes this way. I’ll say this, and they’ll say this” and trying to always be a step ahead of where the conversation is going to go, through these elaborate scripts and scenarios, I would write out, as a young person.
I would say being hyperlexic has been a good thing, for me. Having advanced reading and vocabulary skills was a skill that I made great use of throughout my life, and have, definitely, benefited from.
At the same time, there were some parts of being hyperlexic that were difficult.
For one, being hyperlexic, and having an advanced reading level, and an advanced vocabulary, often meant that, whenever I did struggle in other ways, in other topics, or with other subjects or, other tasks, I was scolded and chastised because I was perceived as being wise beyond my years.
Adults around me expected me to be a well-rounded individua- individ- individual. Since I was reading at college level, and speaking like a little professor, there wasn’t a lot of tolerance for me, air quotes, “acting my age”.
I was an elementary school student, but a lot of times adults expected me to act, and behave, and have self-control, of someone who was much older, which meant I got in trouble a lot.
Good at reading. Teachers couldn’t understand why I wasn’t also really good at math, and really good at history, and really good at every subject I tried to do… but I was just really good at reading, and that was my thing.
I was constantly scolded for not being really good at everything else, and told that I just needed to apply myself, just needed to try harder.
“You’re too smart for this stuff.” Those kinds of comments, my entire childhood, telling me “try harder.” “You’re not trying enough.” “You’re not applying yourself.”
That’s why I am an overachieving, perfectionist, who doesn’t know my own limits, and is constantly pushing myself past my limits, until I make myself mentally and physically ill. Yeah.
This is the end of the video. If you have made it this far, if you could, please, go ahead and hit that thumbs up, like button; that way I know you made it all the way to the end of the video, and I didn’t lose you. That’s very helpful to me.
Let me know if you yourself are hyperlexic, dyslexic, or another NeuroType… if you’re Autistic, or not Autistic.
It’s really interesting how all of these different NeuroTypes can occur even within one NeuroType, as I said, many of us have multiple NeuroTypes going on.
Thank you everyone, for hanging out today, for watching the entire video, for commenting, for sharing.
If you are giving your video suggestions, I’m grateful for those, your feedback, your suggestions.
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I could not possibly do this without you, each and every one of you, whether you’re supporting monetarily or in other ways, I am incredibly grateful for you. I just always want to make sure to say “thank you”.
This blog is truly made possible thanks to the support of you, my viewers.
I will see you all next Wednesday. Bye!
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One thought on “Autism & Hyperlexia – My Autistic Hyperlexic Experience”
WebMD also says hyperlexia is a ‘splinter skill without any practical application,’ which is ridiculous. It’s as if they’re saying that reading is useful only if the skill is acquired at the average age: learn it “too soon” or “too late,” and you can’t do anything with it.
I chose not to learn how to read until I started school, but once I did, I learned far faster than my age-mates. Now I earn a living by correcting others’ grammar and punctuation, which seems to suggest that a having an “abnormal” knack for words is useful.
I know someone who may be both hyperlexic and dyslexic. This person didn’t learn to read until the age of nine because no one realized they were dyslexic, and at the time, a lot of people still thought that dyslexia was “willful disobedience” and “refusing to read” anyway. Once an adult realized, ‘Hey, this kid can’t read ’cause they’re dyslexic,’ and then helped them learn to read… Well, there was no stopping them. In less than a year, they were reading at a high school level (probably considered college level now).