Raising a Bilingual Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Research shows the same early language development in bilingual vs. monolingual children with ASD
What do we know about raising a bilingual child in general?
Research on raising typically developing children as dual language learners tells us that teaching a child more than one language does not cause confusion or a delay in their development. Overall, monolingual (learning one language) and bilingual (learning two languages) children achieve language skills around the same age. Additionally, studies on bilingual children reveal potential benefits to raising children who can speak two languages. These include: greater problem-solving skills, better creative thinking, and a stronger focus on mental tasks. Moreover, it is important to note the benefits of having a strong bond with family members and a family’s culture, which can be enhanced by speaking the native language.
What do we know about raising a bilingual child with ASD?
A review of current studies indicated no significant differences in the early language development of bilingual versus monolingual children with ASD. Within individual studies, the results were somewhat mixed with some areas showing small benefits in monolingual children while others showing minor benefits in bilingual children. As a whole, bilingual children with ASD show some advantages in regards to vocabulary, while monolingual children with ASD show some advantages in terms of development of first words.
Research on bilingual children with ASD is a recent and emerging field, and more research continues to investigate the effects. Previous research on bilingual children with Down syndrome or language impairment have consistently shown that raising a child as a dual language learner does not further delay their language development. Overall, studies on bilingual children with ASD show the same findings.
Based on the current research, early childhood educators and providers who work with dual language families should encourage them to continue using their home language and help alleviate any concerns about harmful effects of raising a bilingual child with ASD.
What is the take away?
More studies needs to be done; however, overall research shows there are no clear or consistent disadvantages in raising children with ASD in a bilingual environment.
Lund, E. M., Kohlmeier, T.L, & Duran, L.L. (2017). Comparative Language Development in Bilingual and Monolingual Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Journal of Early Intervention.