Reading words and reading minds : an investigation of the skills of children diagnosed with hyperlexia
This study presents an investigation of the underlying linguistic profiles often Hyperlexic children and explores the nature of the problems which give rise to their diagnosis. The subjects' unexpected exceptional decoding strength together with their similarly unusual reading comprehension failure form the focus of this study. Reasons accounting for both these phenomena are explored. Diagnosis of these subjects is considered in relation to previous definitions of Hyperlexia and claims about its symptoms, nature and association with other deficits. An overview of the controversy and conceptual confusion regarding explanations of Hyperlexia is emphasized. The sources of the Hyperlexic symptoms observed in the subjects are explored and discussed in relation to current psycho-linguistic models of reading and its development. This inquiry leads to two sets of investigations, the first focusing on the subjects' decoding skills and the second on their comprehension and inferencing abilities. The investigation explores a number of questions regarding the subjects' reading skills. These include determining whether the Hyperlexic subjects prefer one route to reading over another (use lexical or sublexical strategies), whether the deficit is modality specific, whether their unusual reading pattern is consistent over time, whether the subjects can access the semantic system and understand words they read as well as the manner in which they approach the learning of novel words (whether semantic cues help or hinder the learning of new words). Findings from the first set of questions leads to a further investigation of the subjects' comprehension failure. Word, sentence and paragraph level semantic and syntactic skills are explored and ruled out as primary sources of the comprehension breakdown. Instead, pr~gmatic language weaknesses are confirmed and a relationship is established between these symptoms and the comprehension failure. The notions of Relevance, Theory of Mind and Central Coherence are discussed and their application to Hyperlexia considered. The concluding discussion addresses a number of theoretical questions regarding the nature of Hyperlexia. Implications for intervention and possible future directions for research are proposed.