Some thoughts on hyperlexia:
Everything2 medical disclaimer
The DSM-IV criteria for hyperlexia are the same as those for autistic spectrum disorders - it shares the most similarities with Asperger's syndrome. The DSM-IV criteria for Asperger's syndrome are these :
- Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
- marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures to regulate social interaction
- failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level
- a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people (e.g. by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
- lack of social or emotional reciprocity
- Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:
- encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus
- apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals
- stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
- persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
- The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning
- There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g., single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3 years)
- There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive behavior (other than social interaction), and curiosity about the environment in childhood.
- Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Schizophrenia.
Aspects of this that those with hyperlexia or those who know a person who has hyperlexia may want to look at are the info contained in section 2, 4, and 5.
Social problems: Most of the social problems described for those who are hyperlexic seem to be very similar to those described by individuals who are gifted; up to 40% of gifted individuals have an accompanying secondary condition such as autism, Asperger's, dyslexia, or hyperlexia. I recommend that all hyperlexics think about an IQ test in order to avoid misdiagnosis. My own experience with this is that most gifted individuals are usually shunned for being different - Hoagies Gifted ( wwww.hoagiesgifted.org ) has a good set of resources on this. Does one suppose that poor social skills and narrow interests might be triggered by a lack of exposure, in some cases? I personally was not exposed, back when rocks were liquids, to a lot of social situations where I could have learned a lot of social skills.
In addition, a high vocabulary for one's age is typical of a gifted individual.
An article from Wired titled 'The Geek Syndrome', about Asperger's syndrome - which I will reiterate is similar to hyperlexia - does say that Asperger's is widespread in communities of largely science and technical professionals, and that a few autistic qualities are required in science and math. If this is true, then I find the pathologizing of conditions where the individual is still high-performing to be misguided and, in fact, I think people who want to cure Asperger's and hyperlexia and people who want to 'normalize' gifted individuals to be rather ridiculous - rather than push for the norm, realize that people who deal with these things most likely have high intelligence and skills that, realistically, very few others have got.