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Annotation: Hyperlexia: disability or superability?

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Hyperlexia is the phenomenon of spontaneous and precocious mastery of single-word reading that has been of interest to clinicians and researchers since the beginning of the last century. Methods:

An extensive search of publications on the subject of hyperlexia was undertaken and all available publications were reviewed. Results:

The literature can be subdivided into discussions of the following issues: (1) whether hyperlexia is a phenomenon that is characteristic only of specific clinical populations (e.g., children with developmental delays) or whether it can also be observed in the general population; (2) whether hyperlexia is a distinct syndrome comorbid with a number of different disorders or whether it is a part of the spectrum of some other clinical condition(s); (3) whether hyperlexia should be defined through single-word reading superiority with regard to reading comprehension, vocabulary, general intelligence, any combination of the three, or all three characteristics; (4) whether there is a specific neuropsychological profile associated with hyperlexia; (5) whether hyperlexia is characterized by a particular developmental profile; and (6) whether hyperlexia should be viewed as a disability (deficit) or superability (talent). Conclusions:

We interpret the literature as supporting the view that hyperlexia is a superability demonstrated by a very specific group of individuals with developmental disorders (defined through unexpected single-word reading in the context of otherwise suppressed intellectual functioning) rather than as a disability exhibited by a portion of the general population (defined through a discrepancy between levels of single-word reading and comprehension). We simultaneously argue, however, that multifaceted and multi-methodological approaches to studying the phenomenon of hyperlexia, defined within the research framework of understanding single-word reading, are warranted and encouraged.
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Keywords: Autistic disorder; comprehension; dyslexia; pervasive developmental disorder; reading; specific language impairment

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Child Study Center, Yale University, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2003

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