Saturday, 9 May 2009

The Game Of Learning - Elizabeth Barrett The 17 Month Old Reading Prodigy-Phenom


Elizabeth Barrett was 17 months old at the time of the 2 embedded videos here. Her parents Katy and Michael Barrett are both speech pathologists. Even with the knowledge about the parents professions, Elizabeth's ability is still quite remarkable.

The study of child prodigies is very interesting, with every example shedding further light on this phenomenon. With Elizabeth, according to parents, it is plausible that being taught sign language from an early age was a major learning catalyst.

The early signs with Elizabeth included:
  • A large verbal and sign vocabulary emerging by 6 months of age.
  • Pointing to and approximating words in familiar books by 8 months of age.
  • Early pretend-play skills before she could walk.
  • Alphabet recognition before her first birthday.
The clear indicator of Elizabeth's amazing ability was at the age of 13 months when without warning she proudly read out aloud, and also signed, the word "corn" from a cereal box. It is notable that there was no picture of corn on the cereal box. Later that night Elizabeth repeated her skill by reading almost every word presented to her from books and the TV program Signing Time known to her, including Corn, Baby, Horse, Grapes, Purple, Stream.

Despite the delight at their daughter's ability the Barrett's were still concerned about the possibility of a phenomenon called "hyperlexia" which essentially means accelerated reading ability. Hyperlexia may be a "splinter skill" (an isolated enhanced ability) associated with Asperger's syndrome or other autism-spectrum conditions. Thankfully, Elizabeth is "exceedingly social and well-rounded", and the medical opinions have been that she is otherwise a normal little girl who happens to be bright.

Elizabeth and her parents live in Lubbock Texas, which is coincidentally the current home of a previous child chess prodigy - Susan Polgar [Susan Polar Institute of Chess Excellence, Texas Tech University, Lubbock].

The parents have set up a website about Elizabeth -

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