‘I thought he was an alien’ Meet the 5-year-old blowing people away on TikTok

·7 min read
Shyann, Amanda, Ryan and Sebastian (Andrea Van Orsouw Photography/PA Real Life)
Shyann, Amanda, Ryan and Sebastian (Andrea Van Orsouw Photography/PA Real Life)

A remarkable five-year-old who learned to read before he could walk has wowed millions of people online with his “photographic” memory and ability to write in 10 different languages after sharing his gift on TikTok with his 400K followers.

When tiny Sebastian Esposito was 18 months old, he became obsessed with a wooden letter puzzle and began spelling out words like cat and dog – going on to write more than 200 words by the time he was two, as well as learning the entire Russian alphabet.

Now five and in kindergarten, where his classmates are still learning their ABCs, Sebastian has a reading age of 18, has memorised the Greek, German, Armenian, and Turkish alphabets and can recite the entire periodic table of elements by heart – although he cannot yet tie his shoelaces.

Proud dad Ryan Esposito, 30, a mine worker, who lives in Albuquerque, USA, with his photographer wife Amanda Esposito, 33, her daughter from a previous relationship, Shyann, 14, and Sebastian, said: “Every parent thinks their child is special. But I knew Sebastian was really special.

“When he started to spell words backwards, I thought maybe he was an alien. And he picked up all these words so quickly. It was incredible.”

Four-year-old Sebastian (Collect/PA Real Life)
Four-year-old Sebastian (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “We think he has a photographic memory. Anything he sees he just stores in his head and never forgets it.”

Sebastian has a condition called hyperlexia, which is when a child has a reading ability well in advance of their age and has a fascination with numbers or letters.

Three-year-old Sebastian obsessed with letters (Collect/PA Real Life)
Three-year-old Sebastian obsessed with letters (Collect/PA Real Life)

He was diagnosed aged three as well as being found to have autism, a developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world.

When Sebastian’s family first started posting videos of him online, it was to raise awareness of his condition and they never expected the short clips to go viral – with some attracting nearly 20 million views.

Amanda, Ryan, Sebastian, Shyann and Amanda (Andrea Van Orsouw Photography/PA Real Life)
Amanda, Ryan, Sebastian, Shyann and Amanda (Andrea Van Orsouw Photography/PA Real Life)

The most popular TikToks, which he posts under the name @litttle.einstein, often show him writing out an entire alphabet or every font on Microsoft Word, as well as listing every country and capital in the world from memory.

Ryan said: “He can list every single country in the world and their flag, their capitals and where they are. He can tell a country from the outline.”

Sebastian is obsessed with alphabets (Collect/PA Real Life)
Sebastian is obsessed with alphabets (Collect/PA Real Life)

“Seeing him flourish like this is so brilliant. We don’t feel like we deserve such a blessing.

“We’re just trying to spread awareness about his condition, as even we as a family look at him differently because of the way he is.”

Sebastian is obsessed with letters (Collect/PA Real Life)
Sebastian is obsessed with letters (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “Sebastian can’t really speak with his words, it’s quite difficult for him. He has all of these thoughts, but he struggles to communicate that way.

“He has an amazing mind, but he needs to write it down and he can let you know exactly how he is feeling.

“If he falls down and hurts himself, it’s tough for him to let us know, so it can be really difficult.”

Sebastian loves flags (Collect/PA Real Life)
Sebastian loves flags (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “We want people to know that every kid isn’t the same. But they are all brilliant.

“Sebastian can’t put on his own shoes, but he can write in Russian – and that’s fine.”

What was meant to be one of the best days of the young family’s life on July 19 2016 when Sebastian was born, quickly became their worst, as both he and his mum were just moments from death when he became “jammed” in the birth canal.

Sebastian loves reading (Collect/PA Real Life)
Sebastian loves reading (Collect/PA Real Life)

Medics warned Ryan that the pair would not survive if the baby was not delivered within 30 minutes, reducing him to floods of tears.

Ryan said: “I couldn’t believe what was happening. It was the worst day of my life, but also the best as Sebastian was born.

“The alarms started going off. The nurses even threw me out of the room.”

Sebastian’s birth in 2016 (Collect/PA Real Life)
Sebastian’s birth in 2016 (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “I took off crying and then they told me I could cut the cord because he was fine. He was blue when I saw him though, he didn’t even look alive.”

Incredibly, both mum and son survived the dramatic delivery, but Sebastian was placed on a ventilator in the intensive care unit at the Presbyterian Hospital of Albuquerque, where he remained for nine days.

Ryan was told his son would probably have significant developmental issues, but the first-time dad was not worried at all, as he just wanted to hold his baby.

Three-year-old Sebastian colouring (Collect/PA Real Life)
Three-year-old Sebastian colouring (Collect/PA Real Life)

He said: “When we were told he could have difficulties, we weren’t concerned at all. We just wanted him to be okay.

“Once we took him home, we were just your average paranoid parents, always making sure he was still breathing.

“We could tell his cognitive ability was there, so it didn’t matter to us if there was something wrong.”

Three-year-old Sebastian (Collect/PA Real Life)
Three-year-old Sebastian (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “I was just glad he and his mum both survived.”

Sebastian only started crawling when he was nine months old and did not begin to walk until he was nearly two.

Despite struggling with speech delay, the perceptive tot was easily potty trained, as his quick-thinking parents started to use wooden letters to spell out instructions.

Two-year-old Sebastian drawing on a wall (Collect/PA Real Life)
Two-year-old Sebastian drawing on a wall (Collect/PA Real Life)

Ryan said: “As he’s speech delayed, these games and puzzles are the way I can communicate with my son.

“It’s how we potty trained him. We wrote it down. We told him to pee and do a number two in the toilet.

“We’d write down questions like what he wanted to eat and he would tell us.”

Two-year-old Sebastian learning the alphabet (Collect/PA Real Life)
Two-year-old Sebastian learning the alphabet (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “Now he can tell us anything with written words. That’s how we taught him.”

Ryan initially tried to engage in more “traditional” father-son activities with Sebastian, like playing with toys or throwing a ball about, but he realised that his little boy’s one true passion was reading.

On Sebastian’s first proper Christmas in 2018, he was given a Russian alphabet puzzle and Ryan said he could not have been happier.

Sebastian loved drawing letters (Collect/PA Real Life)
Sebastian loved drawing letters (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “His very first Christmas, we got him a Russian alphabet puzzle and he reacted like a kid who’d received his favourite bike.

“He just loves reading and he becomes completely obsessed with it.”

Instead of playing with toys, Ryan engages with Sebastian by giving him spelling challenges, logo guessing games, or font quizzes, where he types out every font on Microsoft Word.

Five-year-old Sebastian (Collect/PA Real Life)
Five-year-old Sebastian (Collect/PA Real Life)

Armed with the knowledge learned from his hundreds and hundreds of books, Sebastian has yet to back down from a challenge.

Ryan said: “He is so, so passionate. We tried to get him to play with trucks and cars, but it’s not what he wants.

“All he cares about is learning. He has plenty of toys, but they are just covered in dust.”

All he cares about is learning. He has plenty of toys, but they are just covered in dust

“When they see what he can do, I worry people think we’re forcing him to learn. But it’s all his own doing.

“Learning is his version of playing with toy dinosaurs. He loves spelling challenges, or guessing logos, or writing out fonts.”

And Ryan says Sebastian teaches him something new each day.

Four-year-old Sebastian reading (Collect/PA Real Life)
Four-year-old Sebastian reading (Collect/PA Real Life)

He said: “I feel like I’ve been learning so much thanks to Sebastian. He has taught me that Kazakhstan is the largest land-locked country in the world.

“He knows the entire periodic table of elements by heart, I couldn’t even tell you 10 of them.”

  1. Kazakhstan is the largest land-locked country in the world

  2. Genghis Khan has 16 million descendants living today

  3. Who every US president is and what their signatures are

  4. The Dutch alphabet is basically the same as the English alphabet

  5. Most languages are derived from Latin

He added: “I can list most African countries in the world now thanks to him. I’ve learned so much just from playing with him.

“Being Sebastian’s dad has made me more compassionate and more understanding about other people and their kids as well.”

You can follow Sebastian’s brilliant videos on Instagram or TikTok on @litttle.einstein.