Hyperlexia, as in the case of my recent client 'Hirdai' (13 years old)
His parents’ hard work in the past made it easier for me to work with Hirdai. He worked tirelessly, never wanting to stop—I had to insist on short breaks, pretending they were for my own benefit. Although he didn’t speak much, he could—after thinking for a while—answer in short and halting sentences, usually in a flat tone of voice.
I proceeded with him in combining our Dyslexia Correction Program with the Autism Approach. In order to have pictures for the small words, he made the alphabet and we mastered some of these short yet very common words. Additionally I slowly introduced life concepts, such as “change,” “consequence,” “time,” “sequence” and “order” over the space of the five days I had with Hirdai.
With every day and with every concept there seemed to be more of the boy present and aware. As much as the focus exercise helped him in his ball catching, it also got him into his body. He looked more focused and he walked with more purpose. He even started to contradict his mum, which absolutely amazed her. He has always been such a good boy, she had told me—and I explained how important it is for an individual to start objecting. It was the beginning of being an individual. We all go through these stages, some more intensely than others. We call it the “terrible twos” for the young children when they become oppositional.
A lot of autistic people haven’t gone through that stage and Hirdai was starting to go through that phase, which may not be so pleasant for a parent, especially when the two-year-old is thirteen.
Finally we started the reading process, with one of the early chapter books. I stopped him at every sentence, sometimes even after a comma and asked him all these questions that usually a hyperlexic child has trouble with. “Who was speaking, when they say ‘he’?” “Where did the boy play with his car?”, “What was the name of the man next to him?”, “Where is the dad?”, “Which was his favourite car?”
Being almost impossible to answer, the replies were mere guesses in the beginning—and usually wrong ones. Yet the longer we persevered and the more of the small words that were actually on the page were becoming images and models, the clearer the meaning formed. Eventually the entire page was like a movie in Hirdai’s mind and he told it to me in his own words. It came as a big surprise to his mum as it showed real insight and clear individual thought and reasoning. Even the tone of his voice had more depth.
I have talked to his mother again when they returned from a holiday in India and she told me how amazed his relatives were when seeing him again like this. He had never been more alert and interactive. Of course he still has a long way to go—and hopefully will return to finish more of the concept work to conclude with the awareness of relationships. After knowing himself he will find a way how best to fully participate in life. Only then does it make sense to look at making friends.