When my son began showing signs of autism, my family and I entered a world I could not have imagined. Our lives suddenly included evaluations, assessments, appointments, and an endless stream of pressure from therapists, pediatricians, and other parents – with or without special needs children – about what we needed to do. I got caught up in the wave. How could I not? I ordered books and more books from Amazon.com. I looked into DAN! doctors. I pursued lab testing and considered every sort of therapy there was. I read testimonials on websites about how parents cured their child of autism by spraying something in his mouth each day, or putting one scoop of a powder into her yogurt, or injecting one milliliter of this liquid into his rear. I read about institutions. I read about bullying. I read about vaccines. I read about children being harmed by their parents’ efforts to recover them. I read about non-verbal autistic children learning to write and thereby putting forth the vivid world of feelings that had previously been ignored. I read the words of autistic adults, all of whom tended toward the same sentiment: what hurt them most growing up was not their autism but the pressure to be something other than who they were. The din of the many voices was overwhelming. It was terrifying.
Hyperlexia: A Literary Journal began as a question: What does it really mean to be autistic and to love someone who is? It began because the noise about autism – like certain noise for some with sensory processing dysfunction – was too loud, too distracting. Everywhere I turned, the discussions about autism were either wrought with anger and controversy or were weighted by a hidden agenda. The layers of conversation seemed to shroud any underlying truth that could answer this simple question: What does it really mean to be autistic and to love someone who is?
In my experience, literature – poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction – gets closer to those truths than any other medium. Eventually it might make sense for Hyperlexia to include other art forms, since so many people with autism tend toward visual thinking. But for now we are sticking to the written word. Hyperlexia is a child’s precocious ability to master reading words far beyond expected age level without having been explicitly taught. Often, hyperlexic kids have difficulty comprehending speech and even the words they read so fluently. They tend to have issues with communication and social ability, and they are more often than not on the autism spectrum. My son is hyperlexic. So are both my co-editors’ autistic kids. Hyperlexia, in my mind, is a manifestation of that question: is autism an ability or a disability? Is it a superability? Hyperlexia is odd and beautiful in that way that autism is, in that way that so many mysterious things, things that lie beyond my comprehension, are. That is what this journal is about. It is about seeking to understand something that may not be understandable, and in our vigilance, seeing all the beauty in that unknown thing.