Skip to main content

Cognitive and language correlates of hyperlexia: evidence from children with autism spectrum disorders

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. According to Newman et al. (2007), the characteristic discrepancy between single word reading and reading comprehension is revealed in an analysis controlling for differences in word reading ability between the hyperlexic and the typical children. This procedure is, however, surprising, given the authors’ assertion that the hyperlexics did not differ from controls on word reading ability, not even when taking into account differences in their chronological age. It is also not clear why the authors did not control for differences in single word reading ability in the other comparisons.

References

  • Atkin, K., & Lorch, M. P. (2006). Hyperlexia in a 4-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 19, 253–269.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cardoso-Martins, C., & Duarte, G. A. (1994). Preschool children’s ability to disregard meaning and pay attention on the phonological properties of speech: Some discrepant findings. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12, 429–438.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cobrinik, L. (1982). The performance of hyperlexic children on an “incomplete words” task. Neuropsychologia, 20, 569–577.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Denckla, M., & Rudel, R. (1976). Rapid automatized naming (RAN): Dyslexia differentiated from other learning disabilities. Neuropsychologia, 14, 471–479.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dunn, L., & Dunn, L. (1997). Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test III (PPVT III). Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goldberg, T. E., & Rothermel, R. D., Jr. (1984). Hyperlexic children reading. Brain, 187, 759–785.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gough, P. B., & Wren, S. (1998). The decomposition of decoding. In C. Hulme & M. Joshi (Eds.), Reading and spelling development and disorders (pp. 19–32). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grigorenko, E. L., Klin, A., & Volkmar, F. (2003). Hyperlexia: Disability or superability? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 44, 1079–1091.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Healy, J. M., Aram, D. M., Horwitz, S. J., & Kessler, J. W. (1982). A study of hyperlexia. Brain and Language, 17, 1–23.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nation, K. (1999). Reading skills in hyperlexia: A developmental perspective. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 338–355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nation, K., Clarke, P., Wrigth, B., & Williams, C. (2006). Patterns of reading ability in children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 36, 911–919.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Newman, T. M., Macomber, D., Babitz, T., Volkmar, F., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2007). Hyperlexia in children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 37, 760–774.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • O’Connor, N., & Hermelin, B. (1994). Two autistic savant readers. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 24, 501–515.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Patti, P. J., & Lupinetti, L. (1993). Brief report: Implications of hyperlexia in an autistic savant. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23, 397–405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pinheiro, A. M. V. (1996). Contagem de Freqüência de Ocorrência de Palavras Expostas a Crianças na Faixa de Pré-Escola e Séries Iniciais [A Word Frequency Count in Books for Kindergarten and Primary School Children]. São Paulo, Brazil: Associação Brasileira de Dislexia.

  • Richman, L. C., & Kitchell, M. M. (1981). Hyperlexia as a variant of developmental language disorder. Brain and Language, 12, 203–212.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Seidenberg, M. S. (2005). Connectionist models of word reading. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 238–242.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Siegel, L. (1984). A longitudinal study of a hyperlexic child: Hyperlexia as a language disorder. Neuropsychologia, 22, 577–585.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Silberberg, N. E., & Silberberg, M. C. (1968). Case histories in hyperlexia. Journal of School Psychology, 7, 3–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Silberberg, N. E., & Silberberg, M. C. (1971). Hyperlexia: The other end of the continuum. Journal of Special Education, 5, 233–242.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Silva, J. R. (2006). Correlatos da Leitura no Transtorno Invasivo do Desenvolvimento [Corrrelates of Reading Ability in Autism Spectrum Disorder]. Master’s thesis, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brasil.

  • Snowling, M. (2000). Dyslexia. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Snowling, M., & Frith, U. (1986). Comprehension in “hyperlexic” readers. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 42, 392–415.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sparks, R. (2001). Phonemic awareness and reading skill in hyperlexic children: A longitudinal study. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 14, 333–360.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sparks, R. (2004). Orthographic awareness, phonemic awareness, syntactic processing, and working memory skill in hyperlexic children. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 17, 359–386.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stein, L. M. (1994). TDE: Teste de Desempenho Escolar [Test of School Achievement]. São Paulo, Brazil: Casa do Psicólogo.

  • Wechsler, D. (1992). Wechsler intelligence scale for children (3rd ed.). London, UK: The Psychological Corporation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wechsler, D. (2000). Escala Wechsler de inteligência para crianças (WISC-III) (3rd ed.) [Wechsler Scales of Intelligence for Children (WISC-III)]. São Paulo, Brazil: Casa do Psicólogo.

  • Welsh, M. C., Pennington, B. F., & Rogers, S. (1987). Word recognition and comprehension skills in hyperlexic children. Brain and Language, 32, 76–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Cláudia Cardoso-Martins.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Cardoso-Martins, C., da Silva, J.R. Cognitive and language correlates of hyperlexia: evidence from children with autism spectrum disorders. Read Writ 23, 129–145 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-008-9154-6

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-008-9154-6

Keywords

  • Hyperlexia
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Phonological processes