When I was younger, I had an aunt who would show their child flashcards of letters and numbers while they were a newborn child. Eventually, it grew from letters and numbers to words and then to sentences. By the age of 5, he was enrolled in 2nd grade, reading whole books, playing the piano very well, and could hold conversations with grown ups. It left an impression on me, to say the least.
So, fast forward a little over a decade later and I had my own child that I was showing flash cards to. Every day I would show her the same cards three times before putting them away. I did this for months. She never repeated them after me, however. So I started showing her American Sign Language. First the alphabet, then numbers, then simple words such as “more”, “eat”, “mommy”, and so on.
Still nothing. But I kept on. I started to read books to her. I started reading her Dune.
And then one day, at around 1.5 years of age, I took out my iPad and wrote the letter “A.” I showed her my screen and said, “What letter is this, Ami?” She said, “Aaah.”
Thinking it was a fluke, I wrote the letter “B” and asked her the same question. “Buuuh.”
I did this over and over until I got to the end of the alphabet. Not having the ability to enunciate the actually letter names, she had pronounced the sounds of each letter. I did this three more times until she finally hit the iPad out of my hand and crawled away.
From there, she started to continue to self-teach herself how to read. Eventually writing whole words on the keyboard from “apple” to “elephant” without me ever teaching her those words.
How did this happen? We’re not sure. We just thought that she was a little ahead of her peers in this regard, but her ability to read full sentences with great comprehension skills would continue on.
And through all of our reading, we came across a term that doctor’s use to describe her genius at reading–hyperlexia. If you were to say dyslexia is the neurological reading disorder of inability to process letters and symbols, hyperlexia is the neurological opposite having the ability to decode words.
At the age of 3, struggling to communicate with our daughter, my husband took out a pad and pen and wrote down a sentence, “I want a peanut butter sandwich,” in turn, Ami read and then walked to the kitchen wanting to eat. We continued this for more simple tasks. And then spelling out songs, and then other requests such as wanting ice cream or to play baseball.
Eventually, we would take her to her pediatrician for a yearly check-up to then be referred to see a specialist. These groups of specialists would begin to diagnosis our daughter as Autistic and to seek therapy so that she could get rehabilitated.
We are still in the process of getting treatment for our autistic daughter, but being able to know that there are ways for us to help create context for Ami, even through what seems to be an odd way to go about it, we continue to strive to provide her the help and guidance she needs to succeed.
Our daughter, the genius reader.