Hyperlexia in ASD: First Study in an Arabic Language Context
While a large number of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) do not develop oral language or show major difficulties in basic language skills, a number of them can have spectacular early reading skills, also referred to as "hyperlexia".
This particularity has not been studied before in Arabic language context.
Objectives: We, therefore, aimed at carrying out a study on Tunisian children with ASD and hyperlexia, in order to estimate the prevalence of this association and its characteristics.
A cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted at University Hospital of Monastir on 868 patients with ASD aged 4 to 11 years old.
First a screening checklist for early reading skills was used by clinicians to select early readers, then a battery assessing reading skills was used with the positive cases;
Evaluation also consisted in demographic, biographical and developmental data as well as individual assessment of intelligence (Leiter 3) and receptive language (Peabody 2).
We found a prevalence rate of hyperlexia in ASD of 7%.
With respect to quantitative measures of reading, all children with hyperlexia had more advanced reading abilities than their chronological age, their level of expressive language, their mental age, and the average reading abilities of their age group. They also had a level of receptive language adapted to their ages and reading levels.
Depending on the ability or inability to decode the "No-Words" and the degree of mastery of the vocalization rules, these children were divided into two groups: A group "good readers" (n = 8), who used highly developed phonological reading strategies and reached the final stage of orthographic stage and a second group of "beginners or poor readers" (n = 22), who used visual reading strategies, had low mastery of vocalization rules, and confusion of colloquial and standard Arabic.
Hyperlexia seems frequent in Tunisian context and should be considered during the assessment and the follow up of patients with ASD