Fayette County has been blessed with a myriad of talented citizens throughout the years, but most do not find their talent as early as one Washington Court House resident.
Four-year-old Arthur Call did not speak at all until he was 2-and-a-half years old, and was considered to be non-verbal due to his diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Arthur was diagnosed with a syndrome known as hyperlexia. According to www.verywellfamily.com, hyperlexia is a syndrome characterized by an intense fascination with letters or numbers and an advanced reading ability. Hyperlexic children read at levels far beyond those of their age-mates and often begin reading at very young ages, sometimes as early as 2-years-old.
“Last fall and winter (2016), Arthur, who was almost 3, had just started talking for the first time,” Arthur’s mother, Sylvia Call, said. “He also started reading and spelling words that I often had to look up. He would correct mine and my husband’s spelling. All through the winter, he would putter about the house making up these neat little poems and reciting them out loud to me. I wrote them all down the moment he said them, and tried to punctuate them based on his pauses and stops. Many of his poems were hastily scribbled onto the backs of envelopes or along the margins of papers I happened to be grading. I didn’t have a plan for his poems at the time, but every now and then I would share one of my favorites on social media.”
Thanks to the efforts of a loving mother, Arthur’s poems were soon presented to a talented illustrator named Molly, according to the family. After months of collaborating, planning and dreaming, Arthur’s first book, “Into the deep, deep brave,” was published when he was just 3-years-old. Now, at 4-years-old, Call is being recognized for his incredible talents. In addition to helping his mom teach Shakespeare to her Ohio Virtual Academy English class, other authors have written commentary on his work, and he’s been featured on a national podcast.
“He attends a local public preschool, and we supplement his education by encouraging him to hone his advanced reading skills so that he not only gets the socialization provided in a typical school setting, but he also completes practice in work that is on his advanced level. Arthur often can complete and/or help grade assignments for high school-level English students,” Sylvia said. “We’ve had a lot of support throughout his education. He began with the Help Me Grow program at age 2 because he was completely nonverbal. He was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at 2-and-a-half, and at 2 years and 8 months he began speaking for the first time and reading fluently. All of the educators who have worked with him have been eager to learn about hyperlexia and how to encourage his growth. It’s really been a very positive experience.”
Washington Court House City Schools Superintendent Tom Bailey honored Arthur because of his remarkable gift with words at the most recent board of education meeting. Bailey, who complimented Arthur’s bow tie, shared his story with the board and presented him with a certificate to recognize his work.
The challenges for Arthur are not over, but according to his family most children on the spectrum who are also hyperlexic have an excellent prognosis. They typically excel in school and higher education, and are able to continue to develop the skills necessary to overcome the limitations of their autism while capitalizing on the abilities that it affords them.
“Arthur has worked tirelessly to overcome some of the barriers that his autism initially caused. Language was difficult for him and sensory things could be overwhelming,” Sylvia said. “We’ve had some truly wonderful resources and professionals who have given him the tools he needs to find his words and to overcome situations that would once have been overwhelming. I think the biggest takeaway for a lot of people who meet Arthur is that autism is not a one-size-fits all label. Arthur is warm, empathetic, energetic, and often corrects my spelling. He’s a pretty cool little guy.”
I am every everything
I am change
Into the deep, deep brave
–Arthur Call, the poem that inspired the book’s title
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy