Cognitive and language correlates of hyperlexia: evidence from children with autism spectrum disorders
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Two studies were conducted to investigate the correlates of hyperlexia in Brazilian Portuguese-speaking children with the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Study 1 involved 3 groups of school age children individually matched for word reading ability: 6 ASD hyperlexic children, 6 ASD non-hyperlexic children, and 6 typically developing children. Study 2 involved 2 ASD preschool hyperlexic boys, and a group of 21 typical children of similar word reading ability. In both studies, participants were administered several reading measures as well as measures of cognitive and linguistic abilities that have been associated with variations in typical and dyslexic reading, namely, vocabulary, phonological processes, and rapid naming. Results suggest that ASD hyperlexic reading differs from both typical and ASD non-hyperlexic reading. In particular, they suggest that hyperlexics learn to compute letter-sound relations implicitly, on the basis of statistical learning. Although the hyperlexic children could read nonwords as well as the typical and the ASD non-hyperlexic children, they performed significantly worse than these groups of children on a letter-sound knowledge task. They also performed relatively poorly on a phonological awareness task. It is suggested that hyperlexics’ indifference to language as a meaningful, communicative device may be the key to their exceptionally good and precocious development of word reading ability.
KeywordsHyperlexia Autism spectrum disorders Phonological processes
The studies reported in this manuscript were possible thanks to a grant from the Conselho Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia (CNPq, Brazil) to the first author. We thank the children, and both their parents and teachers, for their collaboration.
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