Here’s a video that tells you more about our study.
We want to find out how growing up in a bilingual environment affects the linguistic, cognitive and social development of children and, importantly, do these effects differ for children with autism spectrum disorders?
- As well as having no negative impact on language development, there is evidence that bilingualism may provide advantages in social and language skills, and the ability to understand another’s thoughts, beliefs and other internal states (known as theory of mind). Some research has reported gains in other abilities such as flexible thinking, self-control and task switching. However, these findings have been questioned, with others reporting no differences between monolingual and bilingual children.
- Despite the body of research into the effects of bilingualism on typical development, important questions remain about the exact consequences of bilingualism for cognitive development.
- In addition, there is very little research addressing how bilingualism might impact on those with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder. What we do currently know can be summarised as: Growing up in a bilingual environment does not lead to poorer development of language in children with autism.
- However, our own interview study shows that parents are concerned about the possible impact of bilingual exposure on their autistic child’s ability to develop language. Furthermore, practitioners often recommend the use of a single language with a child following an autism diagnosis. We think this could have negative impacts on social, family and community life as well as potentially impacting on cognitive development.
- We want to collect detailed cognitive and family data over time from children with and without autism who are growing up in a bilingual environment. We will explore whether bilingualism offers an advantage for children with autism and their families, and better understand the relationship between early bilingual exposure and later outcomes in language, social and communication abilities, and in community integration and family-life. This project will provide an evidence base for making clinical recommendations about bilingual language exposure for children with autism and will allow us to answer important questions about how a bilingual environment affects language and cognitive development.
Out study advisory board provides an invaluable community perspective for our study. The board members provide input on refining our research questions and shaping the study design, participation and dissemination of findings based on the priorities of the communities they represent. Our members include an autistic woman who speaks multiple languages and works in education, a parent of an autistic trilingual child, a speech and language therapist, and academics and experts specialising in bilingualism and linguistics. The diversity of our board members ensures that every stage of the project is aligned with the needs of the communities we are working for and with.
We know that bilingualism can refer to a wide range of things, but we’re talking about when people speak, or even just hear more than one language.
- If your child speaks English at school but a different language at home
- If one parent speaks English and the other speaks a different language
- If your child speaks very little
- If your child is monolingual but you are not
- If you don’t speak a second language, but other family members do
- If your child hears two, or even more languages, any amount counts!
We would really like to try and complete our assessment visits in the home where possible. However, if you would like to take part but home assessments will not be possible, please get in touch and we will try to accommodate you where we can.
Identifiable information will only be available to the research team.
Following data collection, we will ask parents to provide separate consent (attached) for sharing of video data of assessments for researcher / clinician training, academic and public dissemination purposes. Only those parents who consent to this will have such data shared.
Non-identifiable (pseudonymized) data will be stored on password-protected computers that will only be accessible to lab members. The data will be used for statistical analyses that will be published in academic research journals and utilised in the dissemination of findings via conference presentations and invited talks. All processed data will remain anonymous. In addition, fully anonymised data (i.e. removing participant codes, dates of birth, postcodes and any other identifiable information) will be shared via an open-access data-sharing platform, e.g. Open Science Framework.
Consent forms and a single “background information” form with identifiable data will be stored in a locked filing cabinet in a locked office. Digital version of the background information will be stored on a secure shared drive, in a password protected file, with participant codes. The vast majority of data will be linked to anonymous participant codes. These pseudonymized data will be stored on a secure shared drive, accessed from password-protected computers, to which only members of the lab will have access. Video data will likewise be saved in the secure shared drive, using participant code filenames.
If you have any further questions about the project please contact Rachael Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07821 656 577