Thursday, September 22, 2011
My Baby Can Read!
As you may have figured out by now, I'm a bit of a book lover. From a very young age, I loved to read. I'd always have a book in my hands. I remember getting special permission from the school library and bookmobile to allow me to check out chapter books while the rest of my class was choosing picture books. In the second grade, as a birthday gift, my parents gave me a set of the classics and I thought it was the best gift ever. It was something I loved and it came fairly naturally to me. My mom is a speed reader as well, so I'm sure I got it from her. So you can imagine my disappointment when as soon as Shaun became mobile, he refused to be read to. I would try time and time again, but he was just too busy to let me read to him. I truly thought he'd never show an interest in books or reading.
During ABA when Shaun was about 2.5, he was working on a program where I believe he was matching non identical matching objects. With one particular card, a photo of a ball, he kept saying 'Toby! Toby' and turning the card over. For the longest time we could not figure out what he was saying this with a photo of a ball. One day I happened to notice that the back of the card read, 'Playtime Toy'. Hmmm, Toy/Toby? So I tested this theory and wrote 'Toby' on a piece of paper. He read it perfectly. I followed by various other train names and he read each and every one. At this point it was obviously sight reading, he has such an amazing memory so we left it at that. Very quickly we noticed he was 'reading' TV Shows on the guide on the TV. It started with just a few, and then soon he was 'reading' most everything that he'd commonly watch.
When he started school, he very quickly learned his own name as well as the names of his friends in the class (and from what I hear was happy to tell them which cubby, etc belonged to them too!) When his teacher mentioned this, I told her about the trains and TV shows, etc. She at that time suggested that he may be hyperlexic but at that point, it was hard to tell. (Basically, this means that he had abilities to read that were above what was typical for a child his age.) As I said, he has quite an amazing memory so he could have just been remembering that way.
Over the last year he started picking words up more and more quickly and I was constantly being surprised when he'd read a word somewhere and I'd have no idea where he could possibly have learned it. Over the holidays, he watched a 'Your Baby Can Read' DVD, and by the end of watching it only one time, he knew all the words. Incredible. Again, I couldn't believe what I was hearing but still, was it just his memory?
About a month or two ago, he started insisting that we watch everything with subtitles. In fact, if a movie did not have subtitles, we'd have a meltdown on our hands. So, subtitles it was. Suddenly it seemed as though he was reading everything. Though he still rarely let me read to him, when he'd give me the chance I'd make him read the words I knew he knew. Now he was reading the books and I would fill in the blanks. We like the Step into Reading books, and he was reading Step 1 all by himself, then Step 2, and unfortunately that's where the Thomas books stop but I'm sure he could manage a Step 3 with some assistance. At this point, not only was he saying the words he recognized, he was attempting to sound out the ones that he didn't...something we had never taught him to do. He was reading whole sentences when typically he prefers to use one word statements.
A few weeks ago, while talking about it with his teacher and therapists, they both came to the agreement that he was in fact hyperlexic. Now, the thing with a child who is hyperlexic is that while they have an amazing ability to read at ease, sometimes the understanding is just not there. They are merely words with no meaning. For Shaun, I believe this is partly true as well. He was reading over my shoulder one night and I'm certain he didn't actually understand what the book (Canary's List) was actually saying. But his teacher, in an effort to use this tool to help in the areas he's lacking (social and communication) set up a system where he was given a piece of paper with written directions and was asked to follow them (much like how a visual schedule would work, but with words instead of pictures). She wrote on the paper, 'Go say hi to 'friend's name''. And he did it!! So not only is he really reading, he is, to some degree, actually getting it!! As a mommy, this makes me so proud. Not only is this something just absolutely incredible to watch, in my opinion, but we're hoping it will also be a great therapy tool and something we can use to help him grow.
I am so thrilled with the progress Shaun has made in the almost 2 years since his initial diagnosis, and I am excited to see where this will help to lead him in the years to come.
"As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."- John 9:1-3