Hyperlexia and Hypernumeracy

    What is Hyperlexia?

    Hyperlexia is defined as exceptional reading ability at an early age without age-appropriate language and speech skills. It is a learning difference that is usually identified by language deficits.

    ‘Hyper’ means above or better than, while ‘lexia’ refers to reading.

    Hyperlexia is characterised when a very young child has an unusually advanced reading ability. The child may either be gifted or may have a condition called hyperlexia. A child with hyperlexia may need intervention to gain communication skills, while a gifted child may need to be provided with more challenging material.

    Characteristics of Hyperlexia

    Hyperlexia is a condition characterised by an intense fascination with letters or numbers (see Hypernumeracy) and an advanced reading ability. Children who have hyperlexia read at levels far beyond what is expected at their age. They often begin reading when they are very young, sometimes as early as age two, and without reading instruction.

    Children who have hyperlexia have excellent visual and auditory memories, and they have a tendency to remember what they see and hear with little if any, effort. They will often exhibit echolalia, which is the repetition of phrases and sentences without understanding the meaning. 

    Yet this exceptional memory does not help with speaking or with understanding language. While hyperlexic children have advanced reading skills, they generally have limited vocabulary and communication difficulties.

    While hyperlexic children have advanced reading skills, they generally have
    limited vocabulary and communication difficulties.

    Children who exhibit hyperlexia don't learn to speak the way most children do. Children who have hyperlexia learn to speak in a different way by memorising phrases, sentences, or entire conversations from television, movies or books.

    Children without hyperlexia develop language skills by learning how to make sounds while trying to understand their meanings and then typically advance to using words and then sentences.

    Children who have hyperlexia rarely initiate or take part in interactive dialogues because conversations require people to dissect what they have memorised in order to recreate it into what appears as original expressions, which is something children with hyperlexia tend to find challenging.

    Hyperlexia and Autism

    Hyperlexia and Autism often go hand-in-hand and can be one of the first signs of Autism that parents notice.

    Hyperlexic Traits

    • Precocious, self-taught ability to read words well above age level, which appears before age five
    • Significant difficulty understanding verbal language
    • Intense fascination with letters, numbers, maps, and/or visual patterns
    • Difficulty understanding WH questions (i.e. Where? What? Why? Who?)
    • Echolalia
    • Awkward or unusual social skills
    • Difficulty interacting with peers or adults

    • Rarely initiates conversations
    • An intense need to keep routines (need for sameness)
    • Difficulty with transitions
    • Normal development until 18-24 months then regresses
    • Difficulty with abstract concepts and thinks in concrete, literal terms
    • Specific or unusual fears
    • Listens selectively or appears to be deaf
    • Sensory sensitivities
    • Strong auditory and visual memory


    Hypernumeracy is known as 'hyperlexia but with numbers instead of letters' and is an advanced or self-taught ability to understand math and numbers in young children. It presents with an intense fascination with numbers, much like hyperlexia does with letters.

    The traits or signs of hypernumeracy

    • An intense fascination with numbers and math
    • Doing maths at a level that is higher than what's expected for their age level and is self-taught
    • Thinking in numbers and attempting to quantify everything

    Children with hypernumeracy seem to think in numbers, live and breathe in numbers and attempt to quantify everything (and anything) in numbers.

    Hypernumeracy goes beyond just being fascinated with numbers and good at math.