Turner Syndrome & Verbal Skills: a Good-news Story!

We often hear a lot about the challenges of Turner syndrome (TS), which vary from patient to patient. But let’s make sure to look at the positives, too! One of those for individuals with TS is having above-average verbal skills. How can we nurture this in individuals with TS and help them thrive?

Hyperlexia & Executive Functioning

First, let’s define a couple of terms that have to do with verbal skills.

Hyperlexia

The SSM Health Treffert Center of Wisconsin defines hyperlexia as “advanced and unexpected reading skills and abilities in children way beyond their chronological age.” They also discuss three different types:

  • Hyperlexia 1 is not necessarily an official diagnosis and is used for children who would otherwise be considered neurotypical (thinking or processing thoughts the way most people do).
  • Hyperlexia 2 and 3 are associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). TS patients may or may not also be diagnosed with ASD, but that brings us to our next term.
Readaloudsa

Executive Functioning

Educatall

Executive functioning skills are described in this Integrated Children’s Therapy article as akin to traffic rules, with our brain as a busy highway. Some examples are task initiation, flexible thinking, planning/ prioritizing/ organization, and working memory. These are skills that play important parts in reading and writing, and they affect the way we process and use language to communicate.

What Does This Look Like in TS?

Hyperlexia Study

As with most of the effects TS has on its patients, executive functioning and verbal skills will vary from patient to patient. The most obvious way hyperlexia is noticed is in reading at a higher grade level than expected.

One interesting manifestation of hyperlexia in people with TS is an ability to read longer or more irregular words. In a study by Christine Temple and Rebecca Carney, they predicted reading age in 19 subjects based on a previously determined equation.

Fifteen of these subjects had an attained reading age 10 months higher than predicted. Depending on how the

McGill University/Getty Images

predicted reading age was calculated, 40 to 50% of TSpatients had a reading age 16 months greater than their actual age, compared to about 10% in the general population.

Compensating for Visual-Spatial Challenges

Parenting Science

Temple discusses in her book Developmental Cognitive Neuropsychology that study subjects with TS had difficultywith visual-spatial skills. Two areas tested were block design (arranged blocks with colored faces in a targeted abstract pattern) and object assembly (assembling a jigsaw of real objects).

While X-chromosome haploinsufficiency (missing or insufficient parts of the X-chromosome) may lead to mathematical, spatial, or executive functioning difficulties, this results in enhanced temporal lobe aspects of language that make up for them. So the challenges people with TS face in one area are often compensated for in others. Encouraging news, right?

What Can You Do with This Information?

Educational & Career Paths

Those with interest and skills in language may be well suited for subjects and careers that involve reading and writing.  Possible subjects of choice in school would be English, literature, or foreign language.

Teaching these subjects might be a career option to explore. Writing and editing are also career paths that might work well for someone with good language skills, as well as public speaking. This may mean working as a writer or editor for a publication or company or nonprofit organization. Public speaking may mean simply giving presentations or teaching but can include motivational or educational speaking (like TED Talks).

There are many career assessments that can help find just the

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right direction to go career wise, so talk to your guidance counselor or academic advisor for more information and resources if you haven’t already found your dream field of study or career!

Tips for Educators

Facing History & Ourselves

Educators can help play to a child’s strengths. If a student with TS has higher-than-average verbal skills, encourage them to read out loud to the class, make presentations, tutor other students, write on the whiteboard, explore foreign languages, etc, This will help nurture those skills and improve their self-confidence. For more information on teaching students with TS, see the learning resources on TSF’s website, which includes a Guide for Teachers with indicators and resources.

Using Your Verbal Skills for Advocacy

Leveraging strengths in verbal skills isn’t just about academics or careers. These skills can also be used to advocate for TS either personally or publicly. Being able to advocate for yourself and others with your diagnosis is definitely a “good-news story!”

Finally, it is important to note that every TS butterfly has different strengths and weaknesses. We learned in our Facebook chats during Awareness Month that many of you have strong math skills! So find your X factor and soar high!

Tulane University

Written by Helen Rhoads, TSF volunteer blog writer, and edited by Susan Herman, TSF Blog Coordinator. Designed by, TSF volunteer blog designer.

© Turner Syndrome Foundation, 2023

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