Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Addicted to books - Hyperlexia

So... i've been thinking about the ways in which autism has affected my life, and the way I look at my life.

At the age of 3, I leaned over my father's shoulder, and began to read the Telegraph out loud. Nobody had taught me to read, I had just figured it out for myself. I believe this is called hyperlexia.  I became a voracious reader. Among my early favourites, were Anne of Green Gables, not surprisingly, as I was an adopted girl with decided opinions, who just didn't seem to fit in, kept dropping things, and getting into trouble for speaking my mind. I loved Enid Blyton, especially the Famous Five, and the Naughtiest Girl in School (see previous). Once I reached the age of 10 or so, the supply of interesting books for my age range dried up, it not being a popular demographic with publishers at the time. I then proceeded to read my way through the library, and my mother's book collection, my father not being a great reader. My mother was fond of historical novels, of the more serious variety, Jean Plaidy rather than Georgette Heyer. She bought quite a few Reader's Digest Concise Collections, as they were good value for money, and leather-bound, looking well on the bookshelf. She bought many works from the Reader's Digest Book Club, all in hardback, and she has them all to this day.  By the age of 11, I had read most of Dickens, all of Austen and Bronte, Thackeray, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, etc.

Rarely without a book in my hand, I saw school as an interruption to my reading activities, and did my work as quickly as possible so that I could carry on reading. I did not have many friends. To be honest, I didn't miss them. What I wanted was information and advice on LIFE. I struggled to understand what was expected of me in different social situations, or to comprehend the motivations of other people, the Novel was the answer to all my questions, as it allowed access to the stream of consciousness of other minds, and a glimpse into motivations, and social expectations and mores from different eras. It also asked nothing of me, and allowed me to drift into a dream-like state.

I came to understand the emotions of those around me through the medium of the written word, and by direct learning rather than intuition. However, it was a theoretical understanding until I reached my thirties, and went for counselling, which allowed me to identify my own emotions for the first time in my life. (But that's another post.)

I still love to read, it is less of an addiction now, but provides enormous solace when the outside world becomes annoying.

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