I have followed the debate concerning the “bilingual advantage” concerning executive functions and hoped that this would also be tested for children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders).
Prof. Aparna Nadig from the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at McGill University recently published a paper in Child Development, on her findings demonstrating that the “bilingual advantage” concerning cognitive flexibility that was already observed in bilingual children, also applies to Autistic children who are bilingual.
These findings are very important for families with ASD children, as it will help them make important educational and child-rearing decisions!
I know from my practice that many bi-/multilingual families are advised that “exposing a child with ASD to more than one language will just worsen their language difficulties”, but like Ana Maria Gonzalez-Barrero, the paper’s first author (and recent McGill PhD graduate) says: “there are an increasing number of families with children with ASD for whom using two or more languages is a common and valued practice and, as we know, in bilingual societies such as ours in Montreal, speaking only one language can be a significant obstacle in adulthood for employment, educational, and community opportunities”.
I might add that for multilingual families, being multilingual is an vital part for their children to connect with all the family members, and therefore even more important than the reasons indicated by Ana Maria Gonzalez-Barrero!
This study is an important milestone for the research concerning bilingualism and ASD, and I hope there will be more data to confirm the positive effect of bilingualism on task-shifting activities.
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As for children with other disabilities, please read: