The impact of bilingualism on the executive functions of autistic children: A study of English-Arabic children

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Abstract

There is evidence to suggest that certain executive functions are impaired in autistic children, contributing to many daily challenges. Regular use of two languages has the potential to positively influence executive functions, though evidence is mixed. Little is known about the impact of bilingualism on the executive functions of autistic children, with only a handful of studies published worldwide to date. This study investigated the impact of bilingualism on sustained attention, interference control, flexible switching and working memory, in Arabic-English autistic children (n = 27) and their typically developing peers (n = 66), aged 5 to 12 years old. Groups were matched on age, non-verbal IQ and socioeconomic status, and completed a battery of computerized tests. Results showed an advantage for bilingual autistic children relative to their monolingual peers in sustained attention, and equivalent performance between bilingual and monolingual autistic children on all other executive functions. There were no generalized positive effects of bilingualism, and typically-developing children performed better than autistic children on all measures. The findings indicate that bilingualism does not negatively impact the executive function skills of autistic children, and that it might mitigate difficulties in sustained attention.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAutism Research
Early online date26 Nov 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • dual language
  • second language exposure
  • autism
  • cognition

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