Should Parents be Discouraged from Raising Their Autistic Children to Be Bilingual?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Elizabeth Atkinson
Submitted: November 2020

Due to increased diversity in British classrooms there is an upsurge of parents struggling to decide whether to speak one or two languages with their autistic children. Some practitioners advise parents to limit language use to English, even if this is not their first language. Even when practitioners advise that dual-language exposure is not problematic, some parents feel there is not enough information and are worried about the implications of their choice.

Parents have reported concerns that dual-language exposure will further delay language development or would be too confusing for their autistic child. This essay evaluates the growing body of research in the area in relation to these concerns. The essay concludes that the current evidence-base suggests that being bilingual, is at the very least, not harmful for most autistic children. This essay also discusses possible social and cultural implications of limiting language exposure. It is argued that parents should not be discouraged from raising their autistic child bilingual, rather educational psychologists (EPs) should provide a clear synopsis of the research so that parents can make an informed decision. Possible explanations for the discrepancy between the literature and practitioner advice are explored, as are recommendations for future research and how EPs can support families making the complex and personal decision.

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