Let’s CHAT about Hyperlexia: Written Supports

Dec 16, 2020 | Blog

Recently, CHAT held a professional development session for our team to discuss all things hyperlexia. At CHAT, all of our therapists are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and empathy to support hyperlexic people throughout their learning journey!  

One topic that resonated with our team was different types of written supports, and how they can be modified to target different skills and encourage progress. These supports are briefly outlined in this post, and will be discussed in more depth in upcoming blog posts. 

Types of Written Supports  

  1. Schedules: A sequential, written outline of expected steps or actions. Use short, direct phrases. 
  1. Expectations: Written expectations for behaviors or actions. Use first-person language in short (but complete) sentences (e.g. “I will listen to my teacher.”) 
  1. Social Narratives: Short stories used to teach or introduce new concepts, based off of Carol Gray’s “Social Stories.” Use positive, first-person language. 
  1. Labeling and Describing: Many HxLs have good vocabulary knowledge and skills when labeling. When teaching something new, remember to write as much as you can and provide reading supplements. You can scaffold this from one-word labels to complete sentences. A HxL may use this written instruction as scripts to communicate. 
  1. Scripts: Written scripts for hyperlexic learners to use expressively. These can be scaffolded to change the level of support and increase flexibility, and are written how we would expect the HxL to communicate. These can be written proactively or reactively. 
  1. Templates: Reduced level of support often used for conversations, writing, summarizing, or creating a narrative. These are less explicit than scripts but still provide a framework of expectations or steps. Graphic organizers are a type of template. 

While this list may not be exhaustive, these are the main types of written supports to teach new concepts, encourage positive engagement, and outline communicative exchanges. 

Modifications of Written Supports 

  1. Color: You can write with different colors. You can use different colors to indicate different people’s turns when speaking during communicative exchanges (e.g. teacher = blue, HxL = green). You can use different colors to indicate volume (e.g. red = outside voice, green = inside voice, blue = inner voice). Different colors can also indicate different parts of speech. 
  1. Font: Similar to color, font can be used to indicate different expectations for the HxL 
  1. Mode: Whiteboard and marker, paper and pencil, computer and keyboard, tablet and screen annotation, book and post-it, etc, etc. There are so many different ways to provide written scripts and each can each be used to convey different purposes or lessons. For example, when writing a schedule, you may want to present it on a laminated printed sheet or with a velcro schedule–in others words, in such a way that the language itself cannot be erased or manipulated.  However, when writing for the purpose of providing expressive language scripts, you may want to do that on a whiteboard or piece of paper so that the script can be easily manipulated or changed.  Choose the format in which you present the written support based on the level of interactivity you want the HxL to have with the language. 
  1. Location: Consider the level of access you want to provide. You may want to put a schedule out of reach, but consistently available to see, like on a wall. You may want expectations to be consistently present across multiple contexts and environments, so you might create written supports to put on a lanyard or bracelet. When indicating what a character or toy might say when reading or playing, you may want to write on a speech bubble by the character’s mouth. When providing scripts, you want to write, “I want juice” on the fridge or “I need to go potty” on the bathroom door. 

As hyperlexia indicates a strength in visual processing, we can be flexible and creative in how we modify written supports visually and concretely to use this strength!

We hope providing these examples inspires creativity in how you use written supports to help your HxL person learn and communicate. There is no “one size fits all” so find comfort on the journey to find what connects with your HxL best — there is no wrong way to write for our precocious readers!