Is it normal for my 2 year-old son obsessed with numbers and letters?

Michelle - posted on 02/22/2012 ( 29 moms have responded )

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Hi! I'm a mother of four, my eldest is 13 and my youngest 8 months. My 2 year-old son, not yet 2 and a half, is completely obsessed with letters and numbers. All day long, he looks for them everywhere, calling them out, sings the alphabet song constantly, and he looks for things that look like letters and numbers everywhere. He'll find them in the clouds even, he "writes" them with his cheerios, with a string, or with crayons or anything else he can shape into them...he even chews his food into letter shapes, then shouts "look mommy! The letter A!" I mean, this is 95% of what he talks about. He makes eye contact and is affectionate, says I love you and kisses me, so I don't think it's autism, but is this normal? My girls never did this and it strikes me as so extreme that I worry maybe something may be wrong. Anyone else's child do this? How is he as an older child? Thanks for your help!

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Hind - posted on 06/05/2012

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My older son will be 3 this month and has been completely obsessed with letters and spelling since around his 2nd birthday. He knew all his letters, upper and lower case by 26 months and letter sounds by 2 and a half. Now, he is able to sound out words and WRITE! He even knows "sh" and "ch" etc... I was a bit concerned about Aspergers although he is so affectionate and "with it" that I highly doubt it. he is very quiet, and doesn't seem to like playing with many other kids. He is also a perfectionist and doesn't want to participate in anything he doesn't already feel good at. He would rather spell words with his magnetic letters and write on his magnetic board than any play date.
I think as moms, we're conditioned to worry, so I am glad to hear there are others who have kids who are kindred spirits to mine!

Rae - posted on 10/07/2013

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It was so helpful to find this conversation thread. Thanks to all of those who have posted. My experience with my 2.5 year old son is similar, in many ways, to what many of you describe. He loves letters and numbers and if not redirected, 95% of his day structures around some variation of play with either or both of them. He does have a recognized speech delay and receives services for this. He will often spell a word to me, if I am unable to understand him when he says it. I am aware that he may or may not qualify for a high functioning ASD diagnosis or the like, if we pursued it. But I also recognize that the difference between a 'disabled child' and a 'quirky kid' continues to be hotly debated among those who care. What I'd really like to know is this: for those of you that have chosen to proceed, with formally identifying a diagnosis, and receiving the services this diagnosis affords your child, what are the specific types of interventions, that have truly helped improve your family's quality of life? I am grateful for the information that I have received from professionals and it has helped to educate me greatly, but I would appreciate, so much, hearing from other parents. I understand that, for some, to recount and articulate the details of this process can be personal and challenging, so please contact me directly if you prefer.
Thanks to all.

Michelle - posted on 02/25/2014

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Hi, quick update: my son is now 4 and a half, and he is still obsessed with his magnetic letters, except he groups them together by color and makes them into people with different hats, shields and swords, mimicking a video game he likes to play. He invented his own rules to his game and different swords have a different number of "hits" and perform different functions. He likes to explain the elaborate rules and one player has an M as the head, that's me (for mom) and his is V, his first initial. He also likes playing with his action figures and is still not really sure how to play with others but is getting better little by little. Speech delay hasn't improved. He knows how to read and spell, and has done for about a year, but doesn't realize it until I ask him to read something and he does it, very slowly. Having him evaluated for early intervention because he gets overwhelmed by loud noise and crowded rooms, had him moved to a smaller class and now he is doing well. Still extremely sensitive and has frequent emotional breakdowns when he thinks someone is slighting him. Often is just aloof and in his own world, doesn't seem to hear me when I'm calling him. Planning to have him checked by developmental pediatrician.

Amy - posted on 11/27/2015

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So much here for toddlers who are obsessed with numbers and letters!

I am also an educational researcher.

I do not wish to label my child as he is a normal toddler in other ways. Fairly sociable and loving.

I use his love of numbers to expand his learning in other areas.

Number moulds for sand and water
Number stamps for paint and play dough
Freezing number shapes in ice blocks
Taking photos of the numbers we see in the city and making pictures with the printouts for his wall

He is trying to understand this complicated world we live in. Let's face it, a lot of our urban world is organised numerically.

I use his obsession to understand where he is at. Sometimes it means I need to slow the schedule down some.

My 30 month old is, in the same way as others posted. Does it all day. Asks and remembers what numbers the neighbours live at. Knows the numbers of the cars. Draw numbers. Everywhere. Even in the bath. Counts to 100 (since I got the Countablock book on his request). Sometimes I count him to sleep. Loves the abc and knows it backwards, upside-down.

It's not a problem that need to be fixed for my son right now. Aspergers and autism are spectrum disorders that came into popularity in the 90s. We are all on the spectrum somewhere.

If your child is fairly on track in other areas, don't worry too much. I mean we are all worried, we are good parents, right? But these are toddlers and toddlers have obsessions x

Nazhath - posted on 06/07/2013

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Hi Michelle,

My son 28 months he is also obessed with alphabets and numbers , he can say A for apple and count till 10. He plays through out the day with alphabets ,BIT SCARED he dont understand direction his eye contact is almost ok but when we call his name he some times rsponses some times he neglects.

We went to Monarch house did his speech anaysis next appointment with pshycologist.

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Aileen - posted on 05/07/2014

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Hi! It's so encouraging to hear your stories. My son is 2 this month. He has been in OT since Oct. last year and is quite obsessed with Letters and numbers too. He has also memorized all that is taught in the starfall app. regarding letters. He has a hard time with receptive communication and is not able to express himself very well. We have no diagnosis yet but I'm very confident that if he is in fact in the spectrum, he will fare very well. Early intervention is key. He is smart and affectionate. He is such a blessing! =)

Michelle - posted on 03/28/2014

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Thank you so much for your recommendation, Jen, I'll check out The Spark. Your comments are really helpful and reaffirm my thinking as well. I think what fascinates my son about letters is that he can communicate with them with written words and by turning them into pictures and because he has a hard time communicating verbally. He innately gets them, too, and I can see him being able to create and decipher codes easily when he is older. I asked him why he likes them, and he said "because I can make stuff with them." Perhaps someday we'll unravel these mysteries about ASD. I wish you and your son the best.

Jen - posted on 03/22/2014

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Stumbled upon this post when I Googled "why do some autistic children like the alphabet?". This search the result of my 4.5 year old severe autistic boy waking before dawn to watch his alphabet videos and flip through his alphabet books.
Since he was a toddler he was obsessed with letters - it's pretty much the only thing that exists to him. He doesn't respond to his name but has been sight reading since he was 2.
He stims with the alphabet all day long, reciting it and watching videos and drawing it with his fingers in the air.
I'm aware that children with ASD are usually wired to be visual learners, meanwhile having auditory processing disorder. I assume this is why he is hyperlexic, but I want to understand what about the alphabet fascinates him so.
It sounds like your son has high functioning autism.
I'd highly recommend a book called "The Spark". I'm in the middle of it now and I'm finding it very inspiring in how to nurture and appreciate my ASD children.

Hind - posted on 12/03/2013

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There is a facebook group that I am a part of called Hyperlexia Parents Network. It's fun to connect with other parents with these unique and phenomenal kids and share ideas, concerns and yes, even have a safe place to brag about our kids a bit;)

Michelle - posted on 11/26/2013

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Thank you so much for your post, Hind. I am going to have my son evaluated when he starts preschool next month, thank you for your encouragement and I'm glad to hear your son is thriving! That's fantastic. Angela had also mentioned hyperlexia potentially relating to Aspergers or ASD. I thought this might a possibility with my son, but he doesn't exhibit other signs like echolalia. I thought was odd that he'd have some symptoms but not others. I Googled the symptoms he does have and discovered this very informative website that explains that there are varying degrees of hyperlexia, and I think each of our sons might fall into one of these categories. Here is the link, I think everyone on this thread might find it helpful: https://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/professional/savant-syndrome/resources/articles/hyperlexia-reading-precociousness-or-savant-skill/

Hind - posted on 11/26/2013

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I responded to this thread about 2 years ago , when my son was 2 and half and since then, my son has been diagnosed with ASD. He is also Hyperlexic. Most of his language was echolalia, and he seemed to have difficulty with conversation and continued to show no interest in other children.He also had sensory issues. Since his diagnosis, he has been in speech, occupational and behavioral therapy and has been absolutely thriving. His very strong cognitive skills have been an asset to him as he learns new skills. Early intervention is so important, so if you have a concern, please have your child assessed. A diagnosis does not change your amazing child, only gives you an opportunity to help them gain skills and confidence. My son is still in love with writing, he is quite the little calligrapher and is reading at a 3rd grade level and is learning math as well!

Michelle - posted on 10/27/2013

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My son Is now 4 and has speech issues like some of you have mentioned. I appreciate the comments and suggestions and hope everyone continues to update us about your child's progress. We are enrolling my son in pre-k at his dr's urging because his speech is hard to understand although he has a great vocabulary. Can't say his Ls and Rs well. I researched Montessori schools which is where I think he'd thrive because he can focus better in quieter environments, but we can't afford the ones in our area. Hopefully, public school will do. Given all the similarities in our boys, I tend to believe there is some underlying condition they all share. I don't think my son has Aspergers though because he's the most affectionate, sentimental mushball ever, so I doubt there is any autism. Now, instead of numbers, he's obsessed with super heroes. He knows all of their names, all the villains, their traits and what they wear, their powers, etc. has a really great memory. Still think he's a bit obsessive, also cries easily and is super-sensitive. Same with the distractedness where he doesn't always answer and is kind of in his own world (extremely focused on what he's doing) and doesn't seem to hear me speaking to him sometimes.

Angela - posted on 02/17/2013

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Hi there, my son was the same - obsessed with letters and numbers from about 14 months. He is now almost 5 and is still obsessed with numbers. He began reading when he was 3, seemingly overnight. We encouraged his learning and his interests, but never coached him. He has always enjoyed the energy of other kids, but has no real idea about how to play with them. He has always been affectionate, and his development was pretty normal until about 2 or 3 when the social differences showed themselves and his language developed in a peculiar way - he'd repeat things from the TV and books (echolalia) etc. Last year he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. In my view, he is also hyperlexic (although hyperlexia is not a stand-alone diagnosis). For any of you out there wondering about your child, I recommend you read all you can find on hyperlexia and consider getting a developmental paediatrician assess for Aspergers. Also, read The Anti-Romantic Child by Priscilla Gilman. I was hugely relieved to finally find out what was different about my son. It has enabled us to get the right therapies for him, understand him better, help others to understand him and also seek out other parents dealing with similar issues. He certainly has super powers (and I would not trade him for a typical kid even if I could!) , but Aspergers brings some challenges too, so early intervention is really important.

Michelle - posted on 12/04/2012

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Nancy, I hope that your son is doing well and that your concerns have been explained, and the same for all who have kindly responded. My son is 3 yrs and 3 mos. now, and I believe you all were right, he is just extremely enthusiastic about new learning experiences. So far he is doing great and looks forward to sitting down to write his name and practice his colors and shapes and preschool workbooks. My mother tells me I was the same way, so that has assuaged my concerns so far. Dr says he is fine. He does have trouble focusing when I read to him, he wants to point out details like one of the other moms here said. It can be frustrating to read a book to him with the constant interruptions. He wants to read the same one over and over until he can recite it to me. Then once he learns it by heart he loses interest and it's on to the next book. I'm starting to think he is a little OCD. Interesting, though, that we all have sons experiencing almost identical things. I'd love to hear about your kids' progress. This is fascinating, isn't it? Aren't we blessed with such special and wonderful children. Thank you all for your encouraging and kind responses. I appreciate it and wish you all the best.

Michelle - posted on 12/04/2012

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Nancy, I hope that your son is doing well and that your concerns have been explained, and the same for all who have kindly responded. My son is 3 yrs and 3 mos. now, and I believe you all were right, he is just extremely enthusiastic about new learning experiences. So far he is doing great and looks forward to sitting down to write his name and practice his colors and shapes and preschool workbooks. My mother tells me I was the same way, so that has assuaged my concerns so far. Dr says he is fine. He does have trouble focusing when I read to him, he wants to point out details like one of the other moms here said. It can be frustrating to read a book to him with the constant interruptions. He wants to read the same one over and over until he can recite it to me. Then once he learns it by heart he loses interest and it's on to the next book. I'm starting to think he is a little OCD. Interesting, though, that we all have sons experiencing almost identical things. I'd love to hear about your kids' progress. This is fascinating, isn't it? Aren't we blessed with such special and wonderful children. Thank you all for your encouraging and kind responses. I appreciate it and wish you all the best.

Lucia Martinez Ostos - posted on 12/04/2012

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Hi Michelle, I know you posted this ages ago but I am having the same concerns with my son. He is now 2 years and a half. He knows all his letters, and writes them perfectly! All of them! He is starting to read and spell his name. He knows numbers up to 40 and writes them too! Some of them upside down but I mean... he does the number "8" and "4" which are pretty difficult for a two year old!

He also is 95% of the time doing this. And he is also very loving, affectionate and engaging. But in the school they have some concerns because sometimes it is difficult for him to follow instructions.

Have you had more insight on this theme? Please let me know!!

Elizabethe - posted on 06/17/2012

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It is super wonderful that he is into his letters and numbers, sounds like he wants to do what his 13 year old sibling is doing so he is learning it that way. I just want to say that....

My son was the same way very advanced in some ways by 9 mths old and was affectionate and talked early. Obsessed with certain things and other odd behaviors that could get a bit extreme if left unchecked. It took me 10 years to get the doctors to tell me what it was. He was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome he is high functioning, he does very well with science, history and math but not very well with writing. He is going to 13 in a couple of months there is nothing wrong with him he is just sees things differently than other people do.

My daughter learned early because she wanted to learn what her brother was doing in school, they are 4 years apart in age. So developing early because of the sibling could also be a factor in the process. I wouldn't worry to much about it. We do live in the age where a two year knows how to use the TV remote and log in to a computer when we didn't learn until more recent years.

Angela - posted on 06/11/2012

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my nephew is the same...first with his numbers and now with his letters....points them out wherever he sees them. Don't stress....part of his learning!! let him enjoy it!!

Nancy - posted on 04/11/2012

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Dawn, All I can say to you right now is: Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!

You are absolutely right!! I have now started to look at signs of anything abnormal in anything that he does as well as researching every odd thing he might do. It is driving me crazy! I have decided not to research anything as well as not to "diagnose" my son when really I don't know much about it. Thank you for your advice. I will encourage my son to keep on learning. THANK YOU!!

User - posted on 04/11/2012

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oh...and nancy....once we as mothers "see" the possibility of autism we start researching and seeing any and all symptoms our child might have. My son will look out of the corners of his eyes as he runs around the house sometimes and this is a sign of ausbergers.......it came to my realization later that he was tracking his shadow.......I'm with sarah klauzer. it could be the excitement of learning for him....keep encouraging him and his newfound love of letters and numbers! what I thought too was, if my child WAS autistic.....I would still want him to have the love of learning.....so don't take it away from him!

User - posted on 04/11/2012

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Nancy: don't be scared about it. seems like your son and mine are a lot alike. he was reading for the doctor off the exam table at this age as I was nervous as well. you can ask for a screening for autism, but my doctor had even said with the eye contact and physical contact he gave me he was sure my son was fine. my son didn't get into the colors of puzzles until he was maybe 22 months. my son at 18 months would see shapes outside or on chairs that would "form" letters and he would shout them as well. it was unnerving at first to me too, but don't worry! should be ok!

User - posted on 04/11/2012

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my son was the same. at 18 months he could recognize all the letters of the alphabet. 20 months he knew his numbers by recognition (not just saying them...but pointing all letters and numbers and reading them to you) he was obsessed. I was scared it was a sign of Ausbergers and had a screening. he still is obsessed with them at 28 months. he's a bright bright boy....that's all it's come to be. His speech isn't as good as others his age, but it is coming along. I am grateful for his interest in learning :)

Nancy - posted on 04/07/2012

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Hi, I also have a son who is obsessed with letters and numbers. He is only 17 months old and started showing interest in the letters about a month ago. Now he can recognize more than half of the alphabet. Everywhere we go he shouts out the letters and the numbers. My husband is reading a story and he is saying the letters. I am extremely nervous about this. I keep thinking: is this part of the autism spectrum? I really am terrified about it. As far as other behavior he seems pretty normal. He smiles, he has great eye contact, his vocabulary is pretty good, he recognizes all his siblings and points at them and says their name. He even points at himself and tries to say his name. He plays peek a boo, trucks, blocks, puppets, trains etc but sometimes he will prefer to look at the letters and numbers. He comes to the keyboard and starts saying all the letters. I even started hiding them. Don't know what to do. He also is into colors, shapes and puzzles but not as much. I am waiting for h is 18 month check up to bring this up to the doctor. I can see that the moms that responded their child is older than mine. Any advice? Please any would be greatly appreciated. I have lost sleep, appetite from this. Thanks!!

Sonya - posted on 02/22/2012

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My son is obsessed with them as well. He started around the same age , and he is 3.5 now and still loves them. He is very social and also loves all vehicles, I am not worried. I think some kids just love them :).

Sarah - posted on 02/22/2012

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My son has been super into letters and numbers and shapes since he was about 2ish too. He's 3 1/2 now and still super into them. Ritz crackers, he'll point out all the letters before he eats them, same if he has alphabet soup, etc. If we're out at a store, he'll point them out and spell out. I'm trying to use it as an opportunity to teach him to read. So now instead of just naming letters, he needs to sound them out, like CAT - "C- ku, ku, ku, A, ah, ah, ah, T, Tuh, tuh, tuh." He doesn't recognize words that aren't words though, cause he'll take his blocks and spell out words like, Bkarm, then sound it out and say it's a word. I think it's just an excitement of learning. I really don't think it's autistic behaviour at all. My son definitely does not have autism, he's extremely social and affectionate as well. Personally I think it's pretty cute your son chews his food into letter shapes!

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