Friday, January 15, 2016

Bilingualism and Children with Autism

 Current research shows that children with autism can be bilingual with no added delay or difficulty in their language development. Best practice exhorts teachers, therapists, pediatricians, and other professionals who work with a child with autism to encourage families to continue to use home languages. The following is a list of resources and research for families and practitioners that support bilingualism in children with autism.

What research have you found that supports the alternative view (that families should focus on one language)? Please share in the comments.

When conflicting information is given, families and professionals are encouraged to ask the source to point to specific, current research to support their claims.  Families can be supported to make their own well-informed decisions by professionals who provide resources that are explicitly tied to research.

These are some questions for professionals to consider as they wrestle with this issue for any family:
  • Where is this advice supported in research?
  • Are families' linguistic and cultural rights being supported in this advice?
  • What would be the impacts (e.g. cognitive, social-emotional, cultural and linguistical, short-term/long-term) if families discontinue/continue the use of their home languages?
  • Is there bias and/or privilege that exists behind the advice given?
  • What is the level of English proficiency of the caregivers?
  • Do the caregivers have the information they need to make a well-informed decision?

Check out these sources:
  1. "Communicative Development in Bilingually Exposed Chinese Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders" by Rachel Reetzke, Xiaobing Zou, Li Sheng, and Napoleon Katsos. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2015, Vol. 58, 813-825. doi:10.1044/2015_JSLHR-L-13-0258 History: Received September 24, 2013; Revised September 2, 2014; Accepted January 13, 2015.
  2. "Children with ASD from Bilingual Families: A Systematic Review" by Heather Drysdale, Larah van der Meer, and Debora Kagohara. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, March 2015, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 26-38.
  3. "Bilingualism and Autism Spectrum Disorders" by Sofia Carias, M.S. CCC-SLP. 2008.
  4. "Multicultural Perspectives on Teaching Students with Autism." Wilder, Lynn K.; Dyches, Tina T.; Obiakor, Festus E.; Algozzine, Bob. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, Summer 2004.
  5. "To Be or Not to be Bilingual: Autistic Children from Multilingual Families." Kremer-Sadlik, Tamar (University of California, Los Angeles). Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Bilingualism, 2005.
  6. "Survey of Bilingualism in Autism Spectrum Disorders." Bird EK, Lamond E, Holden J. Int J Lang Commun Disord. 2012 Jan-Feb;47(1):52-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-6984.2011.00071.x. Epub 2011 Jun 20.

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