The curtains were blue?

I see a lot of talk around comprehension and how kids with hyperlexia don’t understand what they are reading. Hyperlexia is a syndrome characterised by a child’s precocious ability to read, basically, they read well beyond the expected level. I have also seen a lot of talk around autistic and ADHD kids struggling with comprehension.

As someone who was one of those children, as well as a parent of neurodivergent children, something I noticed was the questions that were being asked to determine comprehension often looked at details that I didn’t pick up.

There is a meme that goes around quite often:

Often I would look at something and think “The curtains were blue?”

To my mind, the colour of the curtains weren’t important to what was happening in the story, so that was a detail that I didn’t pick up. If you asked me what happened in that scene, there is a good chance I could tell you, however details such as the colour of the curtains was a detail I didn’t notice.

I remember helping my child with a comprehension test and he was struggling because the question was asking a question along the lines of the colour of the curtains. This test frustrated him as he had loved the story and spent ages telling me all about what happened, the characters, the world, but the questions on the test were all things he didn’t pick up. He understood what happened in the story, however the comprehension test was asking for things he didn’t notice.

Another thing I often struggle with is talking about books after I’ve finished them. I will know that I enjoyed the book, I can tell you the gist of the story, or why I think you would enjoy the book, but I don’t always remember the detail after I have closed the book. It’s as if my brain processed things while I was reading the story, then moved on once the story was finished.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t comprehend the story. It does mean that I wouldn’t be able to write an essay on it or answer comprehension questions!

From talking with other autistic and ADHD people, as well as observing my own children, I know I’m not alone with all of this.

If you’re a teacher or parent of neurodivergent children, especially those with hyperlexia, and you think they aren’t comprehending what they’re reading, try to reframe the question so they can tell you about the books they’re reading in a way that suits their brains and the information they remember. You may be surprised how much they comprehend about what they are reading… once you ask the right questions.

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About Melissa

Melissa Gijsbers started writing when she was in High School during the 1990s, even winning some awards for a short story and a script. For many years, life got in the way of creative writing, however she did start blogging around 2006.

She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia with her two sons and a pet blue tongue lizard.

Melissa Gijsbers, Author, Speaker & Booklover
Melissa Gijsbers - Author, Speaker & Booklover
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