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Comparing early language development in monolingually-exposed and bilingually-exposed young children with autism Ohashi, Jennifer Kaori


By definition, individuals with autism have marked language delays. Parents of children with autism are often advised not to raise their child with autism in a bilingual environment because of the belief that exposure to two languages will overload the child’s language system and result in further delays. This study compared a group of recently-diagnosed bilingually-exposed children with autism (n=20) ages 24-52 months with a matched group of monolingually-exposed children with autism (n=40). The groups were matched with regard to chronological age at the time of language assessment and nonverbal IQ score. The groups were compared with regard to the severity of children’s autism-related communication impairment, age of first words, age of first phrases, receptive vocabulary scores, receptive language scores, expressive language scores, and functional communication scores. Two sets of univariate ANOVAs were performed. First, univariate ANOVAs (without a covariate) were performed for autism-related communication impairment, age of first words and age of first phrases. Second, a series of univariate ANCOVAs, with the total number of speech-language and applied behavior analysis intervention hours entered as a covariate, was performed on the remaining dependent variables. All analyses determined that there were no statistically significant differences between the two groups on all language measures. The results suggest that a bilingual language environment does not disadvantage young children with autism in the early stages of language development. Limitations of the study and implications are discussed with regard to future research and clinical implications.

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