Hyperlexia III is a less frequently recognized form of hyperlexia. It is not an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD), even though there are some autistic-like traits and behaviors that gradually fade as the child gets older. These children read early, often show striking memorization abilities, and sometimes have precocious abilities in other areas as well. They may show unusual sensory sensitivity, echolalia,pronoun reversals, intense need for sameness and resistance to change, specific fears or phobias, have lining/stacking rituals, and/or strong visual and auditory memory. Unlike children with ASD, however, they are often very outgoing and affectionate with family, even though reserved and distant with peers and would-be playmates. They do make eye contact and can be very interactive with persons close to them. These children seem quite bright, inquisitive, and precocious in some areas overall. Reading and memorization are conspicuous and often quite amazing. There may other autistic-like behaviors as well.
But over time, they fade, and these children are then quite typical for their age. The prognosis for these children is excellent as they outgrow the “autism” they never had (Treffert 281-286).
Treffert, Darold. “Hyperlexia III: Separating ‘Autistic-like’ Behaviors from Autistic Disorder; Assessing Children Who Read Early or Speak Late.” Wisconsin Medical Society 11 Dec. 2011: 281-86. Web. 10 June 2015. <https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/professional/wmj/archives/volume-110-issue-6-december-2011></https:>.
Comparing Frankie to Treffert’s description above, he exhibited many of these characteristics from the time he was 2 years old. Frankie taught himself to read at two years, 6 months old. He had a very large vocabulary, but could not put a sentence together like other two year olds. He began having echolalia at this time as well. He would repeat but not be able to use it again on his own. He could and still can spell well beyond his four years with such words as “elephant” and “ambulance.” He was always very affectionate and loved to interact with everyone in the family. However, he was always and still is very self-directed. He can play great by himself. He tends to play better with children on the playground rather than in the classroom setting, however, Kupperman explains that to be the language delay causing them to seem anti-social when in fact that is not the case. As the language comes in, usually around four years old, they tend to interact more with their peers. As Frankie’s language continues to develop, the autistic like characteristics continue to fade. His pronoun usage has gotten much better and he almost never echoes anymore.
Because of Frankie’s outgoing and affectionate ways, we never thought he was autistic in any way. It just never made sense. Everything clicked when we finally discovered hyperlexia III. Everything we read from Kupperman and Treffert described Frankie. As you can see in the slideshow above, Frankie was outgoing, inquisitive and playful. But his language issues were very behind.