Supporting bilingualism in vulnerable populations

Maria Vender*, Mirta Vernice, Antonella Sorace

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Although bilingualism is generally appraised and supported by society, many more doubts arise when it comes to children suffering from neurodevelopmental disorders. The concern that the exposure to two languages might deteriorate the linguistic development of children, to-gether with the advice to simplify the linguistic environment and to adopt a monolingual approach, leads many families to abandon their home language and sacrifice bilingualism. Scientific research, however, has shown that this fear is ungrounded and that children with developmental disorders can become successful bilingual speakers, if they are provided with appropriate linguistic exposure. The aim of this paper is that of providing a state-of-the-art of the literature on this topic, by reviewing studies conducted on the interaction between bilingualism and neurodevelopmental disorders, focusing in particular on the interaction between bilingualism and developmental language disorder (DLD), developmental dyslexia and autism spectrum disorder. We discuss issues related to the early identification of DLD and dyslexia among bilinguals and we report the results of studies show-ing that bilingualism does not exacerbate the difficulties of children with developmental disorders, but on the contrary it can be beneficial for them, at the cognitive, linguistic and socio-cultural level. Finally, we provide some recommendations for parents, educators and practitioners, focusing on the importance of supporting the family language in all of its components, including literacy, for a complete and harmonic bilingual growth.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13830
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • bilingualism
  • developmental language disorder
  • developmental dyslexia
  • autism spectrum
  • disorder
  • benefits of bilingualism
  • bilingualism in developmental disorders


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