Onen was just shy of three in this picture. I packed books for him to read on this trip.
I wrote an email to a stranger tonight. I came across an article about Hyperlexia and it seemed it could be relevant, so I sent an email to the article’s author.
This is the email.
I am sure that you get a lot of random emails from parents who stumble across your article on Hyperlexia on the Wisconsin Medical Society’s website. I understand completely if you choose not to read through this one. But I find it very useful to talk out things in order to understand them and since this is your area of expertise, I figure I will write you.
My son, Onen, just turned 5 years old. We have been considering getting him evaluated for Asperger’s. My husband and I have looked at each other several times over the last few years and asked, ” You don’t think he has… do you?” I mentioned that this summer to a friend from church who has a master’s in Christian Counseling and a 6 year old with Autism and she nodded and said, “Asperger’s.”
Onen is very active, talkative, outgoing and intelligent. He is also very different from other children his age. He loves talking to people, but he has no sense of how to do that properly. He circles around in front of them telling them about the video game or t.v. show that is in his mind at that moment. He pats them or smacks at them as he circles around. He is just starting to engage in pretend play and it is always character based on a favorite video game or tv show and the dialog and action is often quoted. He does not notice when other people are distressed or hurt, though he will often mirror the emotions of people he cares about. Last week while running with his friend Alex, Onen reached out and hit him. Alex ran crying to his mother. I had to stop Onen and point out that he hurt his friend and needed to apologize. Onen went up to another boy and said “I am sorry. I should not have done that,” which is the script I have given him for apologies. I then stopped him and pointed out that Noah was not the one crying, nor was Noah the one he hit. He hit Alex. Alex is crying. So he went over to Alex, flicked him with his fingers and repeated his script. I then asked him to add the phrase, “I didn’t realize that I hit you so hard. I did not mean to hurt you.” Onen nodded, repeated the new script and they happily resumed playing.
I am a complete book addict, so I started pointing out words and letters when he started using language at about 18 months. He never got into the whole what do animals say thing and he had no interest in nursery rhymes or songs. The only way that I could get him to sit still was to tell him about words and letters and what they say. I jokingly told people that he would be reading before he was potty trained. He was. He was reading kindergarten level books in the months before his third birthday. I never went past those early lessons with him. He could read, and I believe enjoy chapter books by age 4, though he mostly prefers non fiction. His favorite series is about disgusting plants, animals, and foods. He will quote whole pages after starting with the phrase, “Did you know…”
I never considered that his early reading could be related with his Asperger’s like qualities. He speaks and understands English incredibly well for his age. Yet, if I pay attention, I notice that he is learning English like I was told to learn a foreign language. He will memorize and repeat a phrase, using the exact intonation and volume at which he first heard or read it. (He learns many phrases off of pbs kids cartoons, Thomas the tank engine or lately, Looney Tunes.) Then he will substitute in other nouns, verbs or adjectives. I nearly always make corrections if necessary and he repeats the new phrase several times over the next few days.
I cannot stand sticking to a regular schedule. This does not seem to bother Onen at all. He is content to go along with whatever new activity has come up. Yet he has always woken up at nearly the same time every day. He picks at dinner, but is consistently hungry for a full meal precisely at 9. He makes his food choices, both by what sounds good to him and whether he has yet met his quota for the day of whatever type of food group his preferred snack is. He is always ready to start an activity or outing, but if he has had an exciting day or experience, he doesn’t sleep well for the next few nights. He is incredibly persistent if he is engaged in an activity or he has chosen something he wants to do or something he wants to eat. A few times, when he was a baby, we tried letting him cry for a while (like 5-10 minutes) when he would prefer to be nursing back to sleep for the thousandth time. He got so anxious that he threw up or his nose started bleeding and it would take over 3 hours to calm him back down.
He has always hated coloring books. He ‘x’es out each page, or scribbles on each face. If given a marker and a notebook, he will write a graph with letters about 2 inches tall, or he will write the number 1 on the first page, 2 on the second, and number all 70 pages. Yet, in Sunday School he will color his worksheets perfectly, insisting that all skin must be colored with the “Sandy Beach” colored crayon. He likes activity books, mazes, connect the dots, and addition problems.
I am not sure why I felt like typing all of this to you, a complete stranger. I suppose I would like to know if you think we should pursue an evaluation. We homeschool/unschool. Academically, it doesn’t make sense for him to be with other children his age. Socially, he needs more direct supervision than he would get in a school setting. Plus, because he mirrors other people’s emotions, if he had a teacher who was frustrated with him, he would mirror it back with frustration and belligerence. My long term goal for him is not that he be normal. My goal is that he be a good, Godly man who knows love and enjoys earning a living.