Young girl taught herself to read aged two

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Tanya Paxton’s daughter Sienna began speaking and reading by age two, however her early development was due to an underlying medical condition. Sienna has hyperlexia, which is associated with her autism, which she was diagnosed with aged four.

Despite being born two and half months premature and weighing just over 2lbs, and being slow to start sitting up and rolling over, little Sienna was picking up phrases from street signs and TV adverts very early.

Ms Paxton told how thrilled she was to hear her daughter start speaking, saying: “Her first word was a fairly standard ‘hiya’, but from there she quickly moved into full sentences, often repeating phrases from TV.

“‘Sky, believe in better!’ she parroted over and over again after seeing the advert on telly.

“By two-and-a-half, she was reading off signposts and notices when we were out and about.”

People often told her how advanced her daughter was when she started reading signs out loud such as ‘exit’ and ‘lift’.

Ms Paxton added: “But at home, she was looking at the same picture books that all toddlers have, and running through her ABCs.

“She certainly wasn’t learning adult words like ‘exit’, ‘lift’, ‘toilets’ and ‘fire escape’.

“I was reading a story her granddad had bought for her one evening at bedtime when, suddenly, she just took over. She was pretty much word-perfect; I was so gobsmacked I got my phone out and started filming her.

“Her babysitter couldn’t get over it. She’d hand Sienna things like receipts, shopping lists and food packets, and watch in awe as my daughter read the words in front of her.”

However when Sienna started school her teachers noticed she was having difficulties socialising and sent her to an educational psychologist.

It was then she was diagnosed with autism, with her hyperlexia being part of the condition.

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Her abilities to read and talk affects approximately two in every 10,000 children with autism, as they can read perfectly without actually understanding what they are saying.

Now aged nine, Sienna still loves reading.

Her mother said: “Sienna is a complete bookworm and can get through a young adult novel in a day.

“I have to be so careful because she’ll pick up absolutely anything and read it.

“I recently caught her reading one of my books called How to Kill Your Family, with a cheeky grin on her face!”

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