Can a 3-year-old child read without training? Hyperlexia and Giftedness

Hyperlexia and giftedness
person reading a book
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When I learned that my son could read without prior training, I got so thrilled and scared at the same time. As a mother, I tried to learn about his condition. In this post, I will share with you my experience on how I learned about hyperlexia and the giftedness of my son. Find out hyperlexia meaning and its sub-groups. I also included some tips for mommies to enhance giftedness and hyperlexia.

How did I found out that my 3-year-old child can read?

In an ordinary family night, I heard my son read the word that I wrote on my iPad. I was surprised and couldn’t believe it so I tried to write as many words that I can think about, and yes, he can read it. The next day, I called him and asked him to read some more terms. Then I decided to write sentences. “It’s confirmed!” He can read without prior training. He reads sentences and paragraphs with ease.

What is Hyperlexia?

I have seen children with extraordinary abilities and skills in different TV shows and online, but I have not known anyone in real life. So, when I heard my 3-year-old son read a word in an ordinary family night, I couldn’t stop myself but to be extra happy and amazed. I was surprised because I have not started teaching and training my son to read and write.

I needed to get the most straightforward definition of hyperlexia and hyperlexia meaning. I searched in google, “Can a 3-year-old child read without teaching”. To my amusement, the first word I found was “Hyperlexia.” It is a syndrome characterized by a child’s precocious ability to read. Norman E. Silberberg and Margaret C. Silberberg (1967) initially identified it and defined as the precocious ability to read words without prior training in learning to read, typically before the age of 5.(Learn more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperlexia )

Sub-Groups of Hyperlexia

A lot of articles that I have read relates hyperlexia to autism, some relates hyperlexia and giftedness. Yes they are all related to each other.

I found a site that described these subgroup that is easy to understand, I have clutched in important information from their description to easily differentiate these hyperlexia sub-groups. (Click their link for more information: https://www.agnesian.com/page/hyperlexia

Hyperlexia 1

These are normal (neurotypical), very bright children who simply read early, they have the precocious ability to read and memorize words that they see. The ability is attention-getting and conspicuous because of its early onset compared to other children. Reading ability is usually accompanied by comprehension. Over time most of the other children also learn to read at expected ages so hyperlexia 1 is a transient ability, just ahead of its time in otherwise normal children

Hyperlexia 2

Children in this group hyperlexia occur in children who have hyperlexia as a “splinter skill” as a part of an autistic spectrum disorder. Children with hyperlexia type II has an extraordinary ability to read and memorization skill. Children under this subgroup is accompanied by other cognitive, learning or social skill difficulties usually seen in ASD including some symptoms or behaviors such as echolalia, withdrawal, insistence on sameness, poor eye contact, repetitive behaviors and resistance to both giving and receiving affection.

Hyperlexia 3

This subtype of hyperlexia is a less frequent diagnosis. Children in this group can read early and have “autistic-like” traits and behaviors but they do not have autism. You will notice that these children demonstrate extraordinary ability to read, memorize, and may have special skills in other areas. In a simpler term, the show “autistic-like” but not an autistic disorder and they could outgrow these traits.

Does my child has Hyperlexia?

After careful observation of his skills, relationship with the family, communication patterns, and as a child as a whole. Without a doubt, my child has an extraordinary ability to read. I did not teach him yet to read and write, and I find it amusing that he can read very well. I can say that my child has hyperlexia 1, reading ability at an early age without prior training, without signs of autism.

I have not seen a child specialist because of COVID-19 restrictions, but I will as soon as the situation allows. As a nurse, I don’t see any rush to see a specialist because I am very much convinced that my son has a gift.

How do I find out about my child’s reading level?

Usually, child’s reading level can be measured in school and or a program that allows them to read. One of the widely used program to know the reading level is Lexile Reading Framework. https://lexile.com/parents-students/understanding-your-lexile-measure/how-to-get-a-lexile-measure/.

Since my son is not yet attending school, what I did was to get materials starting from kinder to grade 6 and allow him to read. Using the Five Finger Rule (https://lexile.com/parents-students/understanding-your-lexile-measure/how-to-get-a-lexile-measure/) I was able to do my own assessment. According to my assessment, he can read books with ease at the level of Grade 5. However, since he is only three years old, there are words that he finds it difficult to pronounce.

To learn more about what your child’s reading level means visit this site: https://readingeggs.co.uk/articles/2015/04/24/what-is-my-childs-reading-level/

How do I know if my child is gifted?

Different schools have a program for gifted students. Your child can undergo various tests to learn which area does your child excels in. Yet we shouldn’t be entirely dependent on the school’s identification strategy. I believe that as mothers, we can quickly identify that our children have gifts.

Here are some hints that you may be having a gifted child.

  • A highly developed vocabulary and the ability to learn new words easily
  • The tendency to speak quickly
  • The early use of longer, more complex sentences while using appropriate grammar
  • Early reading, the ability to read without prior training.
  • Continually asking questions about what they see and hear, and wanting to receive thorough responses and explanations
  • The ability to understand and carry out multi-step directions at an early age 
  • The ability to understand and participate in adult conversations.
  • The ability to learn quickly and efficiently
  • A tendency to become highly focused on some regions of interest (e.g., bugs, space, animals) and independently seek out information on these topics
  • Knowledge about the world around them.
  • Extraordinary memorization
  • Early development of motor skills involving balance, coordination, and movement.
  • Pleasure in talking to older children and adults about topics that interest them
  • Come up with their way of solving problems.
  • The inclination to learning. Gifted children find learning fun.

For more information, visit https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/gifted-kids/201105/is-your-child-gifted-what-look-why-you-should-know

Some of the traits and behavior that I have seen with my son:

  • He is very affectionate with the family and others. He is very social and loves to cuddle.
  • He can easily sense if you are not feeling well and gives you a big hug and a kiss. He offers you drinking water even if you do not ask him to do so. He is very caring.
  • He likes playing toys and crafts more than watching an iPad or TV. He prefers you to play with him, and he enjoys giggles and fun activities.
  • He knows the rules in the house, and he follows them. He reminds me of his vitamins, praying before eating and sleeping.
  • He was weaned from milk early, and it was not a problem.
  • I also did not find difficulty in potty training him.
  • He expresses himself, and yes, he is always hungry. He likes fruits and vegetables and not much of chocolates.
  • He loves to play with crafts such as clays, painting, coloring, and block.
  • He can read with ease books with ease.

I have read about hyperlexia and giftedness, and there is a lot of information about it that can help mothers to understand these two words. I believe that my child is blessed with this special gift. Not all children can read without training. I find it really helpful for me as a working mother since I started to homeschool my children.

Learn more about why I decided to homeschool

Gifted Child: Some tips for Mommies

mother and daughter reading book with interest in bed
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com
  • Get a more advanced book for your child and have a regular reading session.
  • Allow the child to re-tell the stories from the book. Some researches would say that children with hyperlexia can have excellent reading skills but may have difficulty comprehending. So you want to make sure that they can understand what they read.
  • Understand the interest of your child and explore. The literature says that most of the hyperlexic children under Type 1 and 2 may have extraordinary skills in other areas.
  • Engage your child in more interactive games.

Conclusion

Yes, a 3-year-old child can read without prior teaching or training. It is called hyperlexia. There are three subgroups that you need to understand.

  • Hyperlexia 1(extraordinary children)
  • Hyperlexia 2 (Children within the autistic spectrum)
  • Hyperlexia 3 (Autistic-like traits and behavior).

If you are a mom who observes this behavior to your child, there are plenty of materials and resources that you can get online. Most importantly, we need to make sure that our children get the best care and guidance in their developmental age. If you are a mom like me with an extraordinary child, be happy, and embrace this gift. Enhance your child’s ability and be more engaged in planning their activities.

Reference:

  • Treffert, D. A. (2011). Hyperlexia III: Separating ‘autistic-like’ behaviors from autistic disorder; Assessing children who read early or speak late. WMJ, 110, 281-6
  • https://www.agnesian.com/page/hyperlexia

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