Question: My son is a wonderful reader, can pronounce words well, and reads aloud with expression – however we recently discovered that he does not understand much of what he reads. Can you help us understand this?

Valerie’s Answer:  Great question, and is one shared by many parents, so thank you for sharing.  What you have described is what many term as Hyperlexia – simply defined as an ability to read words far above the level of their peers.

As many of you know, for 13 years I was in the business of providing private schooling to children and teens with various learning challenges, to include my own private school – and am sharing today from these experiences. 


The two best programs I have found and have used within my school and have shared with clients acrossCanada are:

  • Lexia – This is a computer based program that can be downloaded from the company.  One of my favourite features is the artificial intelligence (automatically branches back to areas that need further work).  There are several programs, beginning with early sound symbol relationships and leading up to Strategies for Older Students which finish with all the skills students need to learn how to read and comprehend.  This program is like having a very patient teacher sitting with you, leading through the mechanics of learning how to read, and learning how to comprehend the written word.  I have highly recommended this program for many years, and recommend most students begin with the initial program – even for the practice of sound symbol recognition, which develops the corpus collosum which is helpful for those with reading comprehension challenges.  This company also had Cross Trainer, yet I believe it is no longer available (which is a shame as it was excellent – and I used it as a reward it was so much fun).  Let me know if you find it!



  • English Smart – I have found a link so you can view, but these are often sold at Costco and Chapters.


  • There are several books in the series, and I have them all, and found them to be the absolute best workbooks.  There is the English Smart series, the Math Smart series, and also a series called Canadian Curriculum.  Each of these has a separate book for each grade level. 


  • The Canadian Curriculum is a snapshot of English, math, history, geography, science (social studies) for each grade, whereas the English Smart and Math Smart incorporate lessons for the whole grade level.  That being said, I have used the English section of Canadian curriculum if I just wanted a “top up” of info or to assess where they really are in those particular academic skills, and then work through the full section as needed. 


  • Within the English Smart book are several sections – one specific section focuses on reading comprehension, another on grammar.  These are the two sections I used most frequently.  I actually had the kids work on those two sections as two separate subjects (and often they were not even working from the same grade level book, as often grammar and reading comprehension skills are very different).


  • In my school, the students did not go onto a new section or story until the previous one was 100% (in any subject).  This disallowed for skipping through sections that kids didn’t truly understand – and allowed for my teachers to monitor the students closely, catching their challenges to then be able to foster and support particular skills (which was the whole point of my school). 


  • I am saying all this, as I feel that to truly be effective, it is an intensive process.  In my experience, I repeatedly found that we needed to actually teach how to extract information so that it could be understood (and all the tricks and techniques to make that happen).  It’s a big and time consuming commitment – but we found enormous results, which then made the rest of learning easier.  As students progress in school, they soon face the change between learning to read … to read to learn – when kids are expected to comprehend in order to be successful in math, social studies etc.  Many get lost at this point.


  • To link this with HANDLE and other brain based approaches you may be utilizing – the corpus collosum is often underdeveloped in these kiddos – usually with one hemisphere far stronger then the other, and therefore they can go through the motions of reading, even be hyperlexic (and sometimes can read with emotion), but that is because they are technically awesome and truly brilliant, and yet have not developed the comprehension of the reading within their other hemisphere. 


  • As a warning – even though math may (or may not) be easy, soon their challenges show up in math class.  In later grades math changes from computation to extrapolation of patterns and utilization of problem solving.  Balanced brain functionality is essential. 



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