New Research Shows Autistic Children Can Become Bilingual
Recent research suggests that children with autism can easily become bilingual. Even though 44% of autistic children have above-average intellectual abilities, parents are advised to raise them monolingually, even though there’s no evidence that learning two languages is harmful. Nevertheless, there is good news for Jewish families who want their children to speak both English and Hebrew.
The research indicates that children can become bilingual without any problem, and in addition to that, bilingualism can enrich their lives in many ways. This study focused on the experiences and views of educational practitioners and parents of Hebrew–English bilingual children with autism in the UK.
The study’s authors believe that ‘forced monolingualism’ prevents children from gaining competence in another language. As a result, children miss out on meaningful experiences, such as socializing with the community during religious services. Jewish children need to learn Hebrew so that they can participate in religious and family life.
In the past, parents had to adopt the model that their autistic children find it challenging to learn new languages because the practitioners believed they could not be bilingual, even though there was no empirical evidence for this. Therefore, the parents had to choose between the education of their children in specialist autistic schools and passing on their cultural heritage.
The researchers discovered that there’s no reason why autistic children shouldn’t learn new languages, but quite the opposite. Many of them proved they are excellent at being bilingual. The research also confirms that people with autism have a great memory and are proficient at the skills required for learning languages.
Although some autistic children have difficulty learning to communicate in a single language, and they should not be forced to be bilingual, these children are no different from those who don’t have autism. The researchers want to further this research by including more families and applying different approaches. They believe further research should focus on autistic children outside the Jewish community to help all families in every community who wish to raise their children bilingually.
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