Hyperlexia And Other Coinciding Diagnoses/Traits

Years ago, cases of autism were considered rare. People who exhibited traits of this developmental disorder were often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all when their signs and symptoms were so slight. Those that were diagnosed as having autism were typically extreme, often exhibiting splinter skills that made them seem almost genius in some areas, but severely deficient in others. These particular autistic children and young adults were then referred to as “autistic savants”.

Today, even the most high-functioning of autistic children still exhibit these exceptional abilities. Doctors are diagnosing these “gifts” as coinciding diagnoses and traits. The most common are the following.

What is Hyperlexia

Taken from the two latin words, “hyper” which means more than usual, and “lexic” or “lexia” meaning the ability to read and understand the written word, hyperlexia then means a child is advanced in their reading and comprehension skills. Parents who report that their autistic children could often read and understand long before they could speak receive this coinciding diagnosis for their children. While quite common globally, in the U.S. it hasn’t as of yet completely caught on that this is a special skill exhibited by special needs children, although the occasional behavior analyst will recognize it.

Photographic/phonographic memory

This one is still up for debate because children with autism will fixate on a certain subject and learn absolutely everything there is to know about it. They will then recite, verbatim, what they have learned. While this is typical behavior for these children, if they go above and beyond and seem to recall everything they have heard and seen, they might have a photographic and/or phonographic memory.

Mathematical skills at a genius level

Some autistic children display an amazing ability to do difficult calculations in their heads or visualize three dimensional objects with specific dimensions. While this is indeed astounding to witness, these children might also have difficulty with simple multiplication or subtraction. Think “Rain Man” and the dropped box of toothpicks in the restaurant scene.

Art and Music

Studies have shown a definitive link between autism and giftedness in art and music. These creative areas of the brain originate in the right temporal lobe, where emotion also exists. Why this is, scientists still have to pinpoint, but these children can draw, paint, play an instrument, or sing as if they were born to do so.

True prodigies

Only ten percent of all children with autism exhibit true prodigy talent. This declaration occurs when an autistic child can play complicated pieces of music after only hearing it once or painting masterpieces without any formal training. In all other areas of their development and lives they lack the skills that most of us take for granted.

On the flip side…

Every spectrum has an up side and a down side. Many children with autism suffer with emotional problems, individual expression, meaningful communication if and when they are verbal, and even psychological disorders.


Because many autistic children are easily overwhelmed, anxiety is a quite common trait or co-diagnosis.


These children often struggle with expressing how they feel and with making meaningful social connections. As such, some develop depression.

Personality Disorders

Trying to cope in a world that doesn’t make sense to them, autistic children look for other ways to cope. If their parents are lacking in knowledge as to how best help them learn to cope in a healthy fashion or the school teachers haven’t made the effort, personality disorders might also become part of the package of issues.

Best approach, regardless

Remember, as a parent you can act for your child and with your child. It makes all the difference in the world to them.

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