J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2003 Nov;44(8):1079-91
Child Study Center, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.
Background: Hyperlexia is the phenomenon of spontaneous and precocious mastery of single-word reading that has been of interest to clinicians and researchers since the beginning of the last century.
Methods: An extensive search of publications on the subject of hyperlexia was undertaken and all available publications were reviewed.
Results: The literature can be subdivided into discussions of the following issues: (1) whether hyperlexia is a phenomenon that is characteristic only of specific clinical populations (e.g., children with developmental delays) or whether it can also be observed in the general population; (2) whether hyperlexia is a distinct syndrome comorbid with a number of different disorders or whether it is a part of the spectrum of some other clinical condition(s); (3) whether hyperlexia should be defined through single-word reading superiority with regard to reading comprehension, vocabulary, general intelligence, any combination of the three, or all three characteristics; (4) whether there is a specific neuropsychological profile associated with hyperlexia; (5) whether hyperlexia is characterized by a particular developmental profile; and (6) whether hyperlexia should be viewed as a disability (deficit) or superability (talent).
Conclusions: We interpret the literature as supporting the view that hyperlexia is a superability demonstrated by a very specific group of individuals with developmental disorders (defined through unexpected single-word reading in the context of otherwise suppressed intellectual functioning) rather than as a disability exhibited by a portion of the general population (defined through a discrepancy between levels of single-word reading and comprehension). We simultaneously argue, however, that multifaceted and multi-methodological approaches to studying the phenomenon of hyperlexia, defined within the research framework of understanding single-word reading, are warranted and encouraged.