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Autism and bilingualism: A qualitative interview study of parents’ perspectives and experiences

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Early online date14 Feb 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Feb 2017


Purpose Research into how bilingual parents of children with ASD make choices about their children’s language environment is scarce. This study aimed to explore this issue, focusing on understanding how bilingual parents of children with ASD may make different language exposure choices than bilingual parents of children without ASD.
Method Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 17 bilingual parents with a child with ASD, and 18 bilingual parents with a typically developing child.
Results Thematic analysis revealed that, in contrast to parents of typically developing children, parents with a child with ASD expressed concerns that a bilingual environment would cause confusion for their child and exacerbate language delays. This was particularly common for parents of children with lower verbal ability. Parents also identified potential benefits of bilingualism, particularly in terms of maintaining a close and affectionate bond with their child.
Conclusions Parents of children with ASD have concerns about bilingualism not present for parents of TD children and these concerns are greater for parents of children with lower verbal ability. Future research in this area should take into account factors such as parent-child bonds, as well as communication and language development.

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