Being bilingual allows autistic children to make up for certain deficits.

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Being bilingual allows autistic children to make up for certain deficits

Bilingual families with an autistic child are often advised to use only one language, to facilitate the development of their child’s communication skills. But now new researches show otherwise.

 


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 👉 Original Article 👈

Brief Summary – TLDR

Autism spectrum disorder is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders. Autism affects not only what has to do with theory of mind (understanding the beliefs, emotions, intentions, and desires of others), but it often affects executive functions, including attention skills.

Research by the University of Geneva (UNIGE, Switzerland) in collaboration with the Universities of Thessaly (Greece) and Cambridge (Great Britain) has shown that for Autistic children, mastering two languages helps them to partially compensate for deficits in the theory of mind and executive functions. These results can be read about in the journal Autism Research.

In the research they assessed their belief reasoning along with a number of other skills supposedly beneficial to such reasoning, namely understanding, producing and thinking in language, remembering and switching between information, and the severity of their autistic symptoms.

The overall findings highlight the advantages gained by bilingual children with ASD over their monolingual peers in understanding beliefs, suggesting that for an Autistic child being bilingual may be beneficial for their cognition.

“It is a spectrum, which is why the intensity of the symptoms varies greatly. But what children with autism have in common is that they have difficulties putting themselves in the place of their interlocutor, focusing on the latter’s point of view and thus disengaging their attention from their own perspective.” Stéphanie Durrleman.

“Bilingualism requires the child to work first on skills directly related to theory of mind, i.e. he or she must constantly be concerned with the knowledge of others: Does the person I am speaking to speak Greek or Albanian? In what language should I talk to him or her? Then, in a second phase, the child uses his executive functions by focusing his attention on one language, while inhibiting the second”, explains Eleni Peristeri. This is real gymnastics for the brain, which acts precisely on the deficits linked to the autistic disorder.

“From our evaluations, we can clearly see that bilingualism is very beneficial for children with autism spectrum disorders”. “We can therefore affirm that benefits in theory of mind and executive functions emerge in bilinguals, even when there is a socio-economic disadvantage”, says the Geneva researcher.

It is very important to know about these findings when we have an Autistic child. “In fact, since this neurodevelopmental disorder often affects language acquisition, bilingual families tend to give up the use of one of the two languages in order not to exacerbate the learning process. However, it is now clear that far from putting in difficulties for autistic children, bilingualism can, on the contrary, help these children to overcome various aspects of their disorder, serving as a kind of natural therapy”, concludes Stéphanie Durrleman.

Stéphanie Durrleman, Researcher, Department of Linguistics at the UNIGE Faculty of Arts and co-author of the study.

Conclusion

Autism spectrum disorder is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders. Autism spectrum disorder is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders. Autism affects not only what has to do with theory of mind (understanding the beliefs, emotions, intentions, and desires of others), but often also executive functions, including attention skills.

Bilingual families with an autistic child are often advised to use only one language, to facilitate the development of their child’s communication skills.

Research by the University of Geneva (UNIGE, Switzerland) in collaboration with the Universities of Thessaly (Greece) and Cambridge (Great Britain) has shown that for Autistic children, mastering two languages helps them to partially compensate for deficits in the theory of mind and executive functions. These results can be read about in the journal Autism Research.

In the research they assessed their belief reasoning along with a number of other skills supposedly beneficial to such reasoning, namely understanding, producing and thinking in language, remembering and switching between information, and the severity of their autistic symptoms.

The overall findings highlight the advantages gained by bilingual children with ASD over their monolingual peers in understanding beliefs, suggesting that for an Autistic child being bilingual may be beneficial for their cognition.

It is very important to know about these findings when we have an Autistic child. “In fact, since this neurodevelopmental disorder often affects language acquisition, bilingual families tend to give up the use of one of the two languages in order not to exacerbate the learning process. However, it is now clear that far from putting in difficulties for autistic children, bilingualism can, on the contrary, help these children to overcome various aspects of their disorder, serving as a kind of natural therapy”, concludes Stéphanie Durrleman, Researcher, Department of Linguistics at the UNIGE Faculty of Arts and co-author of the study.

Portrait of surprised child

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