A reading comprehension program for preschoolers with hyperlexia

Principal Investigator(s):
Dianne Macdonald
Grant Type:
Graduate Research
McGill University
Montreal, Québec (Canada)
Year Awarded:
Year Completed:
Cognition and Executive Function; Early Intervention


Certain children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) possess a precocious ability to read words and numbers, in the absence of any explicit instruction. This ability is referred to as hyperlexia (HPL). Despite the accuracy of their decoding skills, this ability is not accompanied by an associated level of reading comprehension. As a result, this early reading skill is not typically fostered in school by teachers nor at home by parents. Rather, it is often discouraged, given that reading in the absence of comprehension seems largely unserviceable. Later academic treatment focusing on teaching reading comprehension strategies at the paragraph level show some success, but can best be characterized as too little, too late. This study aims to contribute to the literature by targeting single word reading comprehension in preschool children with HPL +ASD. This strength-based intervention study examines the efficacy of a parent administered, custom-designed iPad application teaching single word reading and oral comprehension. This iPad application will be delivered to preschool children with HPL+ASD in their own homes. The application focuses on written word-picture matching in combination with aural word-picture matching. It is hypothesized that targeting written and oral comprehension simultaneously at the single word level will improve both reading and oral comprehension in children with ASD+HPL. This study is based on the early work of Murray Sidman (1971) who used crossmodal, mediated-transfer of stimulus equivalences to teach reading comprehension to children with severe cognitive impairments. It has implications for both preschool and school-aged children with autism.

Back to Funded Research