Hyperlexia: Systematic review, neurocognitive modelling, and outcome

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2017 Aug;79:134-149. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.04.029. Epub 2017 May 3.


Hyperlexia is defined as the co-occurrence of advanced reading skills relative to comprehension skills or general intelligence, the early acquisition of reading skills without explicit teaching, and a strong orientation toward written material, generally in the context of a neurodevelopmental disorder. In this systematic review of cases (N=82) and group studies (including 912 participants of which 315 are hyperlexic), we address: whether the hyperlexic profile is associated with autism and why, whether models of non-autistic reading can teach us about hyperlexia, and what additional information we can get from models specific to autistic cognitive functioning. We find that hyperlexia, or a hyperlexic-like profile, characterises a substantial portion of the autistic spectrum, in which the subcomponents of the typical reading architecture are altered and dissociated. Autistic children follow a chronologically inverted path when learning to read, and make extended use of the perceptual expertise system, specifically the visual word form recognition systems. We conclude by discussing the possible use of hyperlexic skills in intervention.

Keywords: Autism; Decoding; Enhanced perceptual functioning model; Hyperlexia; Reading; Review; Visual word form area.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder
  • Comprehension
  • Humans
  • Language Disorders*
  • Reading

Supplementary concepts

  • Hyperlexia