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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Verbal outcomes at school entry of monolingual and bilingual children with ASD who were minimally verbal at the time of diagnosis Howse, Monika


Families of children with ASD raised in bilingual homes are often provided with mixed recommendations from professionals regarding language exposure. Many parents are advised to limit language exposure to the language of instruction, despite the familial, cultural, religious, or community challenges associated with forced monolingualism. Although previous research with verbal children with ASD has consistently shown that bilingual exposure does not have a negative impact on early language development, no study to date has examined this issue in minimally verbal (MV) children. Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore the extent to which home language exposure, in combination with other variables, predicted verbal outcome at the time of school entry (around age 6) in a sample of children with ASD who were MV (i.e., spoke five or fewer words) at the time of diagnosis. Participants were 34 MV children with ASD; of these, 24 monolingual-exposed (ME) children were exposed to only one language and 10 bilingual exposed (BE) children were exposed to a second language ≥ 20% of the time. Results of a logistic regression indicated that home language exposure was not a significant predictor of verbal status at the time of school entry, but nonverbal IQ (NVIQ) scores were. In the current sample, ME children were five times more likely to remain MV at age 6 after controlling for scores relating to NVIQ, imitation, responding to joint attention, and initiating joint attention. The results suggest that, in this sample, bilingual exposure did not negatively impact the verbal outcome of MV children with ASD, although this result cannot be generalized to the population at large. Limitations of the study are addressed, highlighting directions for future research and implications for clinical practice.

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