Forum de Recherche du CCERBAL


Despite evidence to the contrary, concerns persist that learning more than one language will exacerbate the language-learning challenges experienced by some autistic children2,3,4. Research consistently demonstrates that autistic children can and do become bilingual1,2,5. Thus, there appears to be a disconnect between research evidence and the concerns of parents, educators, and clinicians. A bridge is needed to close this gap. To this aim, this three-part talk will specifically focus on autistic children’s bilingual development in families who speak a minority language at home and whose children are learning English as the majority and community language. Specifically, this talk will include: (1) an examination of parents’ beliefs about their child’s capacity for bilingualism, parents’ experiences with the language supports provided to their autistic child, and the factors that shape parents’ decision-making about language use; (2) a discussion of the extent to which autistic children receive sufficient opportunity for bilingual development; and (3) an investigation of the heterogeneity in L2 development among autistic children, with a particular focus on vocabulary and morphosyntactic skills. Taken together, this collection of research describes bilingual development in autistic children and provides metaphorical bricks to add to the bridge between research evidence and beliefs about autistic children’s capacity for bilingualism. 

References in the abstract:

[1] Beauchamp, M. L., & MacLeod, A. A. (2017). Bilingualism in children with autism spectrum disorder: Making evidence-based recommendations. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie Canadienne, 58(3), 250.

[2] Drysdale, H., van der Meer, L., & Kagohara, D. (2015). Children with autism spectrum disorder from bilingual families: A systematic review. Review Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 2(1), 26-38.

[3] Howard, K., Gibson, J., & Katsos, N. (2021). Parental perceptions and decisions regarding maintaining bilingualism in autism. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 51(1), 179-192.

[4] Sher, D. A., Gibson, J. L., & Browne, W. V. (2022). “It’s Like Stealing What Should be Theirs.” An Exploration of the experiences and perspectives of parents and educational practitioners on Hebrew–English bilingualism for Jewish autistic children. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 52(10), 4440-4473.

[5] Siyambalapitiya, S., Paynter, J., Nair, V. K., Reuterskiöld, C., Tucker, M., & Trembath, D. (2022). Longitudinal social and communication outcomes in children with autism raised in bi/multilingual environments. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 52(1), 339-348.

Tamara Sorenson Duncan

Tamara Sorenson Duncan

Assistant Professor in the School of Linguistics and Language Studies

Tamara Sorenson Duncan is an Assistant Professor in the School of Linguistics and Language Studies at Carleton University.  Her research investigates language and literacy development in diverse populations, including children from immigrant and refugee backgrounds, children with developmental language disorders and children with autism spectrum disorder. Her current projects examine bilingual development among children with language- and literacy-based disabilities, tackling issues such as bilingual development in autistic children, inclusion in French immersion programs, and the impact of COVID-19 and related school closures on children’s language and literacy development.   

If you need an accommodation, please contact us at the following address: [email protected]
Date and time
Apr 11, 2024
11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Format and location
In person, Virtual
100 Laurier (LRR), room 114
The presentation will be given in English, but questions can be answered in English and French.
General public, Faculty and staff, Alumni, Graduate students
Organized by
CCERBAL, Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute