Georgetown University Medical Center researchers today published the first ever fMRI study of hyperlexia, a rare condition in which children with some degree of autism display extremely precocious reading skills. Appearing in Neuron, the case study uncovers the neural mechanisms that underlie hyperlexia, and suggest that hyperlexia is the true opposite of the reading disability dyslexia.
Hyperlexia is found in very rare cases in children who are on the "autism spectrum," meaning they display some characteristics of autism. Like autistic children, children with hyperlexia have extreme difficulty with oral communication, social interaction and expression, and yet can read surprisingly well at a very young age. By some accounts, hyperlexic children can read at 18 months, sometimes two years before they have ever uttered a single word. They are drawn to print, sometimes reading all the signs and license plates they might encounter during a brief walk through the parking lot.
The child in this case study, Ethan , reads six to eight years in advance of his age. He read dictionaries in his twos, but spoke his first word at age three and a half.
Lindsey Spindle | EurekAlert!
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