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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Lexical skills in bilingual children with autism spectrum disorder Petersen, Jill Maria

Abstract

Bilingual families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are often advised to reduce language input or to completely drop one language when communicating with their child. While research has explored the impact of bilingualism on the language development of children with language impairments, there is very limited research available on bilingualism and the ASD population. Lexical development is a focus of early language intervention and an accurate measure of language development. Therefore, studying lexical diversity in bilingual children with ASD is a valuable contribution to our knowledge of language development in this population. This study investigated the lexical production skills of bilingual English-Chinese and monolingual English preschool-age children with ASD, primarily using Communication Development Inventories (Fenson, Dale, Reznick, Thal, Bates, Hartung, Pethick, & Reilly, 1993; Tardif & Fletcher, 2008). Participant use of nouns, verbs, and mental state terms was also explored. In addition, vocabulary comprehension, overall language skills, and nonverbal skills were assessed. Results revealed that bilingual and monolingual participants had equivalent English production vocabularies, and that bilinguals had larger conceptual production vocabularies than monolinguals. The groups did not differ in the number of English mental state words produced. Bilingual participants had a larger number of verbs in their conceptual production vocabularies, and were found to have higher vocabulary comprehension scores and higher language scores. When comparing the two languages of the bilingual participants, there were no significant differences in the size of production vocabularies, vocabulary comprehension scores, or the number of mental-state words produced. The results from this study suggest that bilingual English-Chinese preschool-age children with ASD have the capacity to be bilingual.

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